Hooray for (un-sung) Eveleigh!

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From “British Columbians As We See ‘Em. 1910-11”. Caricatures of prominent BC Residents.

Sydney Morgan Eveleigh (1870-1947) was a Vancouver architect. He was born in England, coming to Vancouver in 1888. He worked with early Vancouver architect Noble Hoffar for several years and later struck a partnership with William T. Dalton. After Dalton retired (1922), Eveleigh was elected president of the Architectural Institute of B.C. and later continued to practice until retiring in 1940.

But it wasn’t Eveleigh’s accomplishments as an architect that make him noteworthy, in my judgement. It was his unpaid community contributions. He was a member of the Art Workers Guild (ca 1900) which later became the Vancouver Arts and Crafts Association. According to the City of Vancouver Archives, “[t]he members of the association held annual exhibitions and sales of work [at O’Brien Hall, in 1900] and conducted art classes throughout the year.”

Most importantly, however, according to the Changing Vancouver site, Eveleigh was a local library board member for several years and was instrumental in the establishment of the first permanent site for Vancouver Public Library: “It was he who contacted Andrew Carnegie, and the five $10,000 cheques that helped build the [Carnegie] library were personally made out to Eveleigh.”

If I may be permitted a bit of a rant – why, in light of S. M. Eveleigh’s contributions to this city, have most residents (I’d wager) never heard of him? A street was named in his honour, but it was never very much of a street (one block hidden today as a back alley and entry to two immense parking structures behind Bentall Centre). Granted, Eveleigh wasn’t a CPR big-wig and, therefore, wasn’t well-connected to the likes of Lauchlan Hamilton (who was responsible for early street naming in Vancouver; according to Street Names of Vancouver, when Hamilton was asked in 1936 by Major J. S. Matthews why Eveleigh Street was so named, Hamilton “could not remember”). Nor did he have the good fortune to have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth (e.g., Granville).

Would it not be appropriate to consider naming a VPL library branch after Eveleigh? Or something else a little more prominent than the pokey wee alley that today bears his name?

CVA 357-3 - Eveleigh Street (West of Burrard), 1925.

CVA 357-3 – Eveleigh Street (West of Burrard), 1925.

Eveleigh

Eveleigh “Street” today (really a back alley with access to two huge parking garages that service Bentall Centre). 2015. Author’s photo.

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