Many of Kelowna’s historic buildings may no longer stand, but they are not forgotten.
In a new book, titled 305 Lost Buildings of Canada, journalist Alex Bozikovic and artist Raymond Biesinger commemorate buildings across Canada that no longer exist.
Several Kelowna structures have appeared in the pages, including the old downtown RCMP station and the old Kelowna Post Office which stood at Bernard and Ellis until it was demolished in the 1970s.
“That Art Deco post office was a very beautiful piece of architecture that has now disappeared,” Bozikovic said in an interview.
Built in 1937, it was designed by Scottish-born architect Robert Lyon, who came to Canada to design the structures for the BC Electric Railway. He settled in Penticton where he designed City Hall before serving as the city’s first mayor from 1948 to 1950 after it was incorporated.
The book also introduces the strange Stocks Meadow Commune of Kelowna.
“In this case, the architecture is a bit beside the point. The commune was self-built and self-designed by the people who lived there, but it captures a very important cultural moment as well as some of the colonial roots of the place,” Bozikovic said.
“In this entry, we get a brief history of Philip Stocks, where he comes from, his arrival and departure from Kelowna, and a taste of hippie culture – all in one building and about 100 words.”
The ‘Teepee House’ was the most distinctive building in the village, which came into being in the 1970s on land that was once owned by Reverend Stocks in the early 1900s.
Throughout the book, Biesinger’s art captures hundreds of lost buildings in a minimalist and stylized way. Biesinger – whose work has appeared in the New Yorker, Guardian and Time magazine – drew inspiration from archival photographs, plans and written reports.
“It really started as a visual project,” Bozikovic said.
As an artist with a degree in history, Biesinger’s interest was piqued by an article Bozikovic wrote in The Globe and Mail a few years ago, and the two were linked.
Bozikovic has been writing about architecture as a journalist for years.
“I started getting interested in beautiful buildings,” he said. “But what I find really interesting about architecture, as opposed to the visual arts, is that architecture really captures many aspects of society. A building not only reflects the aesthetic ideas of architects, but also building technology, science, economics, politics, ideas of how people should live and work.
Bozikovic’s sources of information include local histories, archived building permits, and his own experience as an architectural writer for The Globe and Mail and several magazines. He said researching the architectural and social history of 305 buildings across Canada was a difficult undertaking, especially during the pandemic.
“When you write about local history, there are always people who know it better than you do,” he said.
One of Bozikovic’s favorite buildings is also on the cover: Honest Ed’s in Toronto.
“As architecture, it barely matters,” he said. “It was a chaotic collection of old buildings and additions thrown together over the years. But what it was famous for was the signage. It was a discount store run by the Mirvish family for many years with a whimper-worthy sense of humor and puns in each of the signs that really grabbed people’s attention. Many people felt a very strong connection to him.
Some of these signs include: “Honest Ed is an old goat but his prices won’t fool you” and “Only the floors are crooked at Honest Ed’s!”
The “bittersweet” collection includes all kinds of buildings, such as theaters, hotels, fire stations and flour mills that have been demolished, burned down and otherwise lost.
“The book’s message is not that we should keep everything, but that we should be careful and intentional about the kinds of places we remember.”