History

West Vancouver Community Arts Council was established in 1968, with a mission to increase and broaden the opportunities for West Vancouver and all North Shore citizens to enjoy and participate in cultural activities. The WVCAC is based out of the Silk Purse Arts Centre on the waterfront near John Lawson Park at 1570 Argyle Avenue. The District of West Vancouver generously makes the Silk Purse available for the Council’s use.

On June 9, 2008, the Silk Purse Arts Centre was added to the District of West Vancouver’s Community Heritage Register, a list of 50 local properties that are formally recognized as having heritage value. The Statement of Significance which accompanies the listing notes that:
“… the Silk Purse has heritage value for being representative of summer cottages built in the early 20th century along the Ambleside waterfront and later upgraded for year-round residential use, for its current use as an arts centre, and for its association with the families of John Rowland and Tom Campbell. The building was constructed in 1925 as a summer cottage, reflecting the predominant use of land along the Ambleside shore in the period before the construction of the Lions Gate Bridge. Few tangible reminders of this phase of West Vancouver’s waterfront history remain. It was later adapted for year-round use. The house was expanded as a ‘honeymoon cottage’ and filled with Canadiana shortly after 1970 by John Rowland, a local ‘character’. Rowland’s son said that his father tried to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, bestowing on the building its present name. Another person associated with the house is former Vancouver mayor Tom Campbell, who inherited the property from his father and sold it to Rowland. The acquisition of the building in 1991 by the District of West Vancouver and its adaptation as an arts centre reflects changing land uses on the Ambleside waterfront, as public uses gradually replace private residential use. The Silk Purse has value as the nucleus of a developing cultural district along Argyle Avenue. The landscaping of the long, narrow lot is typical of the area, with trees or shrubs along the property lines and parking facing the street.

"The character-defining elements of the Silk Purse Arts Centre include:
  • Location facing the water at Ambleside
  • Small, domestic scale
  • Low gable roof on the water side, presumably the profile of the 1925 cottage
  • Two-storey gabled portion on Argyle Avenue, presumably from the 1970s building campaign
  • Horizontal wood siding
  • Cast iron sign (‘Silk Purse’) and lamp
  • Large room facing the waterfront"
© West Vancouver Community Arts Council
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