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A new life for an old Coquitlam home

A home built by Maillardville pioneers that, over the past few years, has become an eyesore to neighbours may soon be restored to its original splendor.
1107 Cartier Ave., Coquitlam
1107 Cartier Ave., Coquitlam

A home built by Maillardville pioneers that, over the past few years, has become an eyesore to neighbours may soon see new life.

On Monday, the 104-year-old Maison Leblanc will be the subject of a public hearing as a result of a bid by heritage architects who want to restore the home to its original splendour.

New Westminster-based Pattison Architecture was hired by Efran Eliyin, the owner of 1107 Cartier Ave., to redevelop the historic property and infill the yard with two new duplexes.

Already, Coquitlam city council has given first reading to heritage revitalization and designation agreements — one of about half-a-dozen approved for Maillardville homes over the past five years or so.

Coun. Chris Wilson, chair of the city's Maillardville Commercial and Cultural Revitalization Advisory Committee, said council and staff are working to protect the city's history. Currently, a new heritage strategy is being developed that would give guidelines on how to better preserve historical places. A report is due before city council next year.

"Right now, the Heritage Revitalization Agreement is the best we have," Wilson said.

Eric Pattison of Pattison Architecture said Maison Leblanc is his firm's fourth project in Coquitlam "and we have more on the go in Maillardville."

Last year's adoption of the updated Maillardville Neighbourhood Plan plus new streetscape measures and heritage objectives have whetted the appetites of developers, said Pattison, who in 2014 restored Rocheleau Cottage (built in 1929), Maison Velay (1910) and Blue Mountain House (circa 1914).

Maillardville is unique because of its French-Canadian ties to Fraser Mills — once the biggest sawmill in the Commonwealth — and its compactness.

"It's a treasure in the Lower Mainland," he said.

For Maison Leblanc, his company dug into the building's history and will be able to replicate the home as much as it can, given its deteriorating state. The home, built using Fraser Mills' first-growth lumber, will retain its west coast Edwardian/east coast influence with a cedar shingle roof and the original colours on the exterior: gold-beige on the top, dark green below.

"It's going to be a gem on the street," Pattison said.

According to a conservation report, Eugene and Olivia Leblanc were among the first wave of Quebecois migrants to Maillardville in 1910. Eugene Leblanc was a sawyer — an important job on the production line — and built the family home likely using free or cheap wood supplied by Fraser Mills to its workers.

His home went up during a construction boom in Maillardville, just as the mill was expanding and the municipal and electricity lines were being hooked up. By 1913, all the lots in the first few blocks around Laval Square had been allocated to Francophone families and an average of one Maillardville house was finished each week; up to 20 houses were being built at any time.

It appears the Leblancs never owned their property, which was bought in 1923 by the Michauds (Harmel Michaud was a logging contractor) and rented to the Leblancs. Fifteen years later, millworker Joseph Beaudet and Mary Magdalen purchased it and, in 1945, the title was with Henry Goulet, also a millworker.

Today, most of the original homes on Cartier Avenue have been demolished.

According to the city's heritage inventory for Maillardville, the Leblancs' neighbours' homes at 1106 Cartier Ave. (Mullen House) and 1125 Cartier Ave. (Beaubieu House) are listed as "support buildings," meaning they have some historical significance.

Wilson hopes the heritage home restoration happening around Maillardville will drive more commercial development to the area.

"I think it's a chicken-and-egg thing," the councillor said. "With the residential push, business will come."

• The public hearing for Maison Leblanc is on Monday, July 27 at 7 p.m. at Coquitlam city hall (3000 Guildford Way).