Beneath the floorboards of a historic artists’ cabin on the North Shore, a treasure trove of Vancouver memorabilia was just waiting to be uncovered.
The small wooden house known as the Blue Cabin is believed to have been built in the 1930s, and is probably best known as the home of artists Al Neil and Carole Itter. It once sat upon on a barge in Coal Harbour, but was later grounded next to Cates Park in North Vancouver.
Now, a restoration of the cabin has turned up a time capsule of dozens of posters advertising Vancouver entertainment from the 1920s and even earlier.
Artist Jeremy Borsos discovered the the stash in the subfloor. At first, he noticed the only poster that was lying face up — an advertisement for “Richards: America’s Greatest Magician and His Big Company” at the Orpheum.
“When we looked around and saw all these other posters, we were just beside ourselves, because, you know, it was history,” Borsos told CBC News.
In all, there were about 30 placards, advertising everything from appearances by famous conductors like John Philip Sousa to plays and boxing matches. Long-lost Vancouver venues like the Pantages Theatre feature prominently.
The cabin was originally part of a squatters’ community known as the Maplewood Mudflats, according to Marlene Madison of Vancouver’s grunt gallery.
“For a number of years, up until the early 70s, there were a great number of artists and hippies and people just wanting to live off the grid that populated that area,” she said.
Sculptor Tom Burrows lived there for a time, as did writer Malcolm Lowry. But many of the other cabins were torched in 1972 by the District of North Vancouver.
In 2015, the land next to the site where the Blue Cabin rested for decades was purchased by a developer, and now Madison’s gallery is spearheading a restoration project aimed at setting the home afloat once again.
The plan is to repair nearly a century’s worth of damage and place the cabin on a barge, where it would serve as a studio for an artist living in a tiny house installed beside it.
“I think it’s really important to preserve that cultural history,” Madison said.
“It would be wonderful if it would float around to different communities, so we’re looking at False Creek, perhaps Deep Cove, maybe the Fraser River.”
As for the posters, the artists plan to place a few back under the floor once the restoration is complete, along with a some newspapers.
“And, well, the rest will be history,” Borsos said.