East Van Architecture: Early Vernacular Style


The Architecture of Early Vernacular Houses

Vancouver has been a growing city ever since the late 1890’s, so you’ll see many different types of architecture representing different time periods in the city’s history. From the simple cottage style homes to Vancouver Specials to Tudor Revivals – there are many different styles of architecture found in the city which change the size of the homes, the floor plans and the amount of decoration. Much of East Vancouver was built in the 1950’s and later, however certain East Van neighbourhoods will see houses from an earlier time period.

 View all our blogs on East Van Architecture Styles

Common Elements of Early Vernacular Homes

In Mount Pleasant and Strathcona (one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods) you’ll find the Early Vernacular style of home, which was typically built between 1870 and 1910. The Early Vernacular is one of the oldest style of homes and has seen a few different iterations through the years (with the architecture and size of homes getting bigger as time went on). These homes often had one bathroom on the second floor above the kitchen, with small bedrooms nearby. The living room and dining room are separate spaces on the main floor. The basements in these homes were often crawl spaces or had low height ceilings. These basements can be dug down to increase the ceiling height and make the space more livable, though that’s quite a big reno job.

The earliest style of East Vancouver’s Early Vernacular was one storey with gabled roofs, a shallow porch leading up steps to the elevated front door. As construction materials and processes improved, the Early Vernacular transformed into a two storey home with a full length pitched roof and bay windows on the first and second storey. Sometimes, the second floor was recessed allowing room for a small balcony above the front door.

East Vancouver’s Early Vernacular style of home had ornate windows and doors. The windows often has much detail with stained glass, shaped or textured glass. Often original front doors had panelled glass detail. The exterior of these homes were often siding or cedar shingles. Many of these homes were “kit” homes which people chose from a catalogue and were built with pre-fab parts so you’ll see that the homes are quite modular, with the exterior being without much detail (very ornate homes are seen in later years through the Craftsman style).

Given the age of these East Vancouver Houses, you’ll see the homes in many stages or repair – those that have been completely updated, those that have seen their exterior updated with new materials, some modern details on the windows and doors, additions or homes that have not been well kept and would now be considered “tear-downs”.


The house in the photo below is a newer build, but replicates the style of Early Vernacular Homes. Often, the City of Vancouver will require builders to match styles of heritage architecture in certain areas of the city to maintain the neighbourhood’s history and identity.


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