Dr. Leonard Klinck, who had been Dean of Agriculture since 1914,
became UBC President in 1919 after the death of the university’s first President, Dr. Frank Wesbrook. In 1916 Dean Klinck appointed Dr. F. M. Clements to lead the Department of Horticulture. Klinck and
Clements had been classmates at Macdonald College (part of McGill University) and were close friends with Buck. After World War 1 they began a search for someone to undertake the daunting task of landscaping the new campus, “a logged-off area replete with stumps, boulders and blasted craters.” Frank Buck was selected for the job and was appointed Assistant Professor of Ornamental Horticulture in 1920.
The first building on the Point Grey campus, the Science Building,
was a concrete shell in a field of stumps. It was completed with land
-scaping in time for the official campus opening in 1925. It and the four storey building that became the University Library (later named main Library) were the only two campus buildings to be faced with local granite quarried from Haddington Island in the Johnstone Strait (Editor’s note: UBC archives report that Nelson Island, near Pender Harbour was the source, see article
) This light grey, black flecked, extremely hard stone was selected by the architects, Sharp and Thompson and warmly approved in a 1913 report by the three member oversight committee (engineering professors Laird from Pennsylvania and Darley from McGill, and English landscape architect and town planning consultant, Thomas Mawson). It was Mawson who suggested the cheap method for getting the stone to the campus, by shipping it to a jetty at the base of Point Grey, and then by cable railway up the 300 ft. high bluffs to the campus. Before WWI, the use of local stone would have been cheap and feasible, but after the war, the cost became impossible. All campus buildings until after the end of WWII, especially the so-called temporary buildings constructed in the 1920s and 30s, were clad with what was euphemistically called ‘California Stucco’.
In 1912 the logged lands of the Burrard Peninsula between the railway line bordering the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) lands on the
east and the University Endowment Lands including the campus land
at Point Grey to the west, were part of the Municipality of Point Grey.
Point Grey and South Vancouver were both amalgamated with Van
-couver in 1929. When Buck arrived, Point Grey Municipality was also experiencing the renewed growth that had been stopped during WWI. New streets and houses began to appear in scattered subdivisions with fanciful old-country names that had been created between 1900 and 1914 to lure the influx of UK immigrants to settle in Vancouver’s suburbs. Buck and his family found a home in Kerrisdale, the area from the CPR tracks between West 33rd and 57th Avenues west to Macdonald Street.
The Point Grey Municipal Hall in Kerrisdale, built in 1912, was on the west side of the CPR tracks and north of the CPR nursery. The nursery grew and supplied trees for the beautification of streets, medians and boulevards in the subdivisions, and also provided landscape materials for the gardens of the posh prewar houses built in the company’s adjoining Shaughnessy Heights. The treed medians on Osler Street and Angus Drive radiated from a centrepiece park, the oval ‘round about’ called the Crescent. The greenhouses supplied flowers for the downtown CPR hotel on Granville Street, the dining cars of the transcontinental trains, which departed Vancouver every day for Toronto and Montreal, and the Empress ships sailing monthly for Asian Pacific ports such as Yokohama and Shanghai. The nursery site was sold to the Vancouver School Board in the mid 1920s for construction of Point Grey Secondary School, designed in the Gothic Revival Collegiate style by architects, Townley and Matheson, and opened in 1929. A row of very large trees remains on the nursery site, including several Ailanthus altissima (tree-of-heaven), Quercus rubra (northern red oak), Platanus × hispanica (London plane), and one the very few large Sequoia sempervirens (California coast redwood)
growing in the area.
The elected officials enthusiastically promoted municipal growth and
development in direct competition with Vancouver. They developed
effective zoning controls and guidance to ensure planned and orderly
development and the continued exclusiveness of the municipality as a place of residence for white, middle class professional and semi pro
-fessional families preferably from the British Isles. In 1925, the BC
Town Planning Act gave cities and municipal councils the authority to
prepare an official town plan, set up advisory town planning commissions, and to guide the physical development of a municipality. In 1923, Point Grey had passed a local bylaw that said much the same thing and was the first municipality in the Dominion to have an appointed town planning commission. Landscape architect Frank Buck and architect, George Thornton Sharp both served on the commission from 1923 until amalgamation with Vancouver in 1929. Clearly, they had much to do with the orderly development of their
Large parts of Buck’s legacy are the street tree plantings he
initiated in the 1920s: the avenue of Ulmus americana (American elm–his favourite tree) down West 22nd. Avenue from Dunbar Street; northern red oaks along 8th Avenue at the edge of Point Grey Park and on Discovery Street; the venerable London planes lining the diversion of West 8th Avenue into West 9th west of Alma; and the ‘mile’ of gold avenue of tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) and catalpa (Figure 2)(primarily Catalpa speciosa mixed with C. bignonioides) east from Alma along West 10th to Kitsilano High School, with their summer blossoms and striking yellow fall colour. Clearly these trees were planted prior to the Kitsilano Diversion that linked Point Grey’s 10th Avenue into Vancouver’s West 12th at Macdonald Street. Other avenues of elms and maples still flourish throughout the Dunbar, Point Grey, Arbutus and Kerrisdale districts. The elms escaped the devastation caused by Dutch elm disease elsewhere in North America, and the Discovery Street park viewpoint remains the best overlook view across English Bay to the downtown and
Perhaps Frank Buck’s greatest legacy for Vancouver came from his 1923 appointment by Point Grey Reeve, G. A. Walkem as chairman of the Advisory Town Planning Commission, the first in Canada. One of the commission’s first concerns was the development, landscaping and beautification of public parks and recreation places in the municipality. They sought ideas and expertise of consultants, not from the ‘old country’ as had been the practice before the Great War, but from our neighbours to the south. Buck had probably read or heard about the ‘City Beautiful’ movement that originated in Chicago. It was a good place to start, so the commissioners invited the Chicago firm of Harland Bartholomew and Associates to present their ideas to the commission.Harland Bartholomew appeared before the Point Grey Town Planning Commission and members of Council on Friday July 27th 1923. He spoke on the “Five principal kinds of recreational facilities [that] should be provided in a district like Point Grey.” ‘Children’s Playgrounds’ were to be located on elementary school grounds, then ‘Playfields’ for older children were to be located within a one mile radius of each other. Recreational facilities (Neighbourhood Parks) should be one mile apart and designed for passive recreation with grass, trees, flowers and water (where possible). The recording secretary added a note that “Unfortunately Mr. Bartholomew was not shown the Maple Grove Park” although, at the time, the only water at Maple Grove was a very large, shallow, rock-lined kiddies’
The fourth principal recreational facility was the ‘Large Natural Park of 50 acres or more’, which retained natural features with informal landscape design. The fifth facility combined two elements: ‘Boulevards’, here referring to traditional tree lined streets, and ‘Pleasure Driveways’, a new concept that recognized the potential in the dawning age of the automobile. Bartholomew saw these landscaped median-divided streets as “connecting the large parks (and of themselves giving) a great recreational advantage to the city.” In 1928 when Bartholomew was commissioned by Vancouver to prepare plans to amalgamate Point Grey with the city, he enlarged and extended the concept of pleasure driveways by incorporating these parkways as part of the park and street system for Vancouver.
In 1928, the year before the amalgamation of Point Grey and Vancouver, Buck summed up the role that Point Grey had taken in the town planning movement for the City of Greater Vancouver. He wrote in his self-effacing manner: “It can be inadequately performed in the few pages assigned for that purpose,” then went on to give a good accounting of the contributions the Commission had made in planning the orderly development of the municipality and street beautification and indicated what was in hand but not completed. As an example, under the heading of “Recreation,” he wrote:
“The recommendations of the Commission relating to Parks and
Recreation were presented to the Council (Point Grey) in November
1928, and while as yet they have not been adopted in their entirety, a
number of the recommendations have been acted upon.”
Buck’s planning commission appointment ended with the dissolution of Point Grey, but in 1929 he was appointed to the newly constituted Advisory Town Planning Commission for the City of Vancouver. He served until 1951 and was chairman for two terms during the war, in 1939 and 1941. His volunteer service over some 30 years set a standard for the British Columbia Society of Landscape Architects (he was the society’s first honorary member) to offer themselves for volunteer professional service. The BCSLA code of professional practice now obligates member landscape architects to serve on today’s equivalent of advisory town planning commissions, the advisory design panels, that are now constituted in many of BC’s cities and districts. Buck’s legacy continues in the parkland landscape of lawn and trees, particularly flowering trees that weave broad ribbons of green landscape through our city, including West 16th Avenue, King Edward Boulevard, the Cambie Street Heritage Boulevard and the 100 Canada Centennial maples on Boundary Road.
Although Frank Buck wouldn’t qualify in today’s world to use the title “Landscape Architect” after his name, he was one, nonetheless.
He successfully combined professional garden design and plant arrangement with his teaching of courses in ornamental horticulture at UBC. His Ottawa experience and his knowledge of plants lead to many calls from his UBC faculty colleagues to provide advice and planning of their home gardens, which included President Klinck’s garden on Marine Drive in West Vancouver and the estate garden he designed for Dean of Agriculture Blythe Eagles and his wife Violet at Deer Lake in Burnaby, which included a large rockery and several pools. The City of Burnaby designated it as a Heritage Garden, and it is now being restored with the help of the BC Land Conservancy. Buck’s landscape legacy lives on in Burnaby as well as in Vancouver.
The June 1939 issue of the local magazine, The Garden Beautiful (it ceased publication in 1946), included an article by Buck, Potentialities of Our Coast Cities in which he wrote:
“Today the House alone no longer constitutes a Home,
a House must have a Garden…I attempt a brief discussion on the
opportunities offered by British Columbia cities on the Pacific Coast for building the ideal home of all types…The director of Kew Gardens said of Vancouver that this city had a climate which favoured, …the successful growth of Nature’s beautiful garden flowers. …And is it not true that the two chief cities of this province are especially favoured in this respect? Our Gardening friends may be found in their gardens for nine, sometimes ten months of the year. Where else in Canada
is this possible?”