* Also see the "Definitions" tab for descriptions of each search field, and search tips for each field.
This database contains historic building permits
This database is not a contemporary listing of all Vancouver's historic properties, but instead an exact transcription of original, historic building permits dating from 1901 to the early 1920s, across the three pre-1929 historic municipalities of South Vancouver, Point Grey, and Vancouver.
Streetnames can change, address shift, but if your building falls into the date range when the permits were being issued for each municipality, then it should be within the database - it might take some sleuthing to dig it out, along with additional resources (see resources).
Keyword search - what is this?
This is the easiest way to quickly check for a building permit reference using a general term/phrase. This will search across multiple fields; Owner, Architect, Builder, Street, Remarks.
Keyword - try searching for the owner, architect, building, street. More general terms will display more results. For example, "49" in the street field pulls results for "49th avenue", "49 avenue", "49th", "49th ave", depending on how the original entry was written.
Boolean search terms are valid within the keyword search.
Note - keyword(s) search across multiple fields over 30,000 entries, and may slow down slightly depending on the search.
Search - what is this?
A much more specific search, where you can concentrate only on one field search, or across select (ie: only an architect, or an architect between 1912 and 1914 in Point Grey).
If you are having trouble locating an entry, or want to search for multiple entries (such as all projects by an architect) you can use the Keyword Search.
Knowing the legal description of a given property is key, as you're able to search for an entire district lot, or narrowed down to a block within a DL, etc.
No results have been returned, but they entry should be there
Ensure that the fields are all clear (button). Too precise a search may not be useful. For example, some entries do not record the street number so the street name is the best indication. Broaden your search, which might involve pulling all permits for an entire street or district lot (DL), then manually going through each entry.
It may be useful to confirm the name of the original owner before you begin searching (note that the name of the first resident may not be the person who took out the building permit, as many houses were built on a speculative basis and were sold upon completion):
Vancouver yearly directories (online, VPL)
Another *very* useful resource are the water permit records on microfiche, located at the City of Vancouver Archives. Find the property will generally give you the owners name, a date of the water application (generally towards the end of construction, but not always), and the legal. You'll be able to search then by the owner's name in this database, and further narrow it down by date ranges.
The street name does not show up
Street names did change over time. For instance, Seaton Street was later renamed Hastings Street, but will be listed in the database under "Seaton" if the permit was taken out before the name change.
If you cannot locate your street in the database, check Elizabeth Walker's brilliant book, Street Names of Vancouver:
Street Names of Vancouver, by Elizabeth Walker via the Vancouver Public Library (PDF, 68.8Mb)
The street address does not show up
Street addresses also change over time, often through subdivisions. Try leaving out the street number when searching if no results are found.
South Vancouver (Municipality of) oddities
After the 1929 amalgamation, South Vancouver had a dramtic shift in street names, and also addresses, due to re-alignment to the Point Grey and Vancouver road systems:
• Many streets were renamed, or avenues shifted
• In certain areas of South Vancouver, the west/east division used to be Main Street, and was realigned to Ontario Street. This shifted the actual street addresses by 2-blocks. For example, "52 East 25th Avenue" pre-1929, became "252 East 25th Avenue" after 1929. Knowing the legal address is key, this did not shift over time (although there are rare exceptions)
The legal description will be useful
The legal description is more accurate for properties than the street address. You can determine the current legal description from VanMap and/or through archival fire insurance maps, or sectional maps. If the legal address has changed over time you may need to determine the original legal. Using a legal address is another way to confirm if the entry is in fact the correct one for the given property.
An example: District Lot (DL): 526; Block: 34; Lot: 9
A little sleuthing might help, by selecting only the DL then the block, and going through all the resulting entires.
Of course the original permit might not have recorded the legal address, and searching this way would show zero results.
Though the City's online VanMap, once you've found the lot, double-click the lot with the arrow tool, and up pops a tax assessment, complete with the legal description. Any building dates given within VanMap are many times approximate.
City of Vancouver's VanMap
Use alternate spellings
Spellings of names (owner, architect, etc) and streets can have multiple spellings over time. Searching for "West" will return "West Road", and also "Westminster Avenue" (became Main Street) and "Westminster Road" (became Kingsway). Also using portions of names can help, as in "Macl" for the architect Maclure.
Another example: Searching for "Greene" will return a few results, while searching "Green" returns many more, some of which might actually be a "Greene" but might have been written down in error 100-plus years ago, and there transcribed as such.
Vancouver street names – name changes
In the years since the building permits were issued, the names of many streets or portions of streets in Vancouver have changed or shifted. These include the following of some more common streets with changes:
Albert Street to Franklin Street
Alexandra Street to Ann Street
Ash Street to Simpson/Haddon Street
Barnard Street to Union Street
Bismark Street to Kitchener Street
Boundary Avenue to Glen Drive
Boundary Road to Trafalgar Street
Bridge Street to Cambie Street
Campbell Street to Alan Street
Cariboo Street to Skeena Street
Carl Avenue to Princess Street
Cedar Street to Burrard Street
Clinton Street to Penticton Street
Collingwood Road to Rupert Street
Dixon Street to Heather Street
Dock Street to Windsor Street
Dufferin Street to 2nd Avenue
Dundas Street to Powell Street
Dupont Street to Pender Street
Electric Avenue to 4th Avenue E (Grandview)
Victoria Drive to Point Grey Road
Water Street to Carrall Street
Westminster Avenue to Main Street
Westminster Road to Kingsway (Note: 'West Avenue' or 'West Road' may indicate an abbreviation of 'Westminster')
William Street to Melville Street
False Creek to Taylor Street
Fraser Street to Kamloops Street
Frederick Street to Carolina Street
Front Street to Water Street
Grove Crescent to Malkin Avenue
Grove Street to Atlantic Street
Harris Street to Georgia Street E
Howard Street to Watson Street
Howe Street to Adera Street
Humphries Street to St. George Street
James Street to Glen Road
John Street to Prince Edward
Keefer Street to Frances
Knight Road to Clark Drive
Lansdowne Avenue to 4th Avenue
Lorne Street to 3rd Avenue
Oppenheimer Street to Cordova Street
Park Drive to Commercial Drive
Park Lane to Station Street
Park Road to Renfrew Street
Percival Street to Clark Drive
Powell Street to Dundas Street (portion of Powell)
Princess Street to Pender Street
Rogers Street to Ruby Street
Scott Street to Fraser Street
Seaton Street to Hastings Street W (west of Burrard Street)
Thomas Street to Inverness Street
Union Street (a portion of) to Adanac Street
Valentine Street to Prince Albert