See the unique North Vancouver house a couple saved from demolition

The stylish West Coast modern home was designed in 1950 by Fred Hollingsworth as a home for the masses.

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Realtor Trent Rodney has a knack for selling West Coast modern homes that were built in the 1950s and ’60s.

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Sometimes he gives them flashy nicknames, like “the Starship House” or “the Cathedral House.” Other times, he played up the architect or builder, such as Arthur Erickson, Ron Thom or Bob Lewis.

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But one of his most recent emails was different. It was headlined “Demolition Bait (Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired home in North Vancouver).”

He sent it out to 10,000 people on his database of West Coast modern aficionados. The goal: To save a small house on a big lot in North Van.

“Since it’s on a corner lot on Forest Hills Drive, one of the best streets, and is close to Edgemont Village, this is prime developer bait,” said Rodney.

In this case, the 9,660 square foot lot was occupied by a 1,363 sq. ft house. The zoning allowed for a new structure up to 5,500 sq. ft. The price: $2.3 million.

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What made this house special is it was designed by the local West Coast modern architect Fred Hollingsworth as part of his “Flying Arrow” series in 1950. Rodney said only six Flying Arrows were built; this could be the only one left.

Hollingsworth had studied with architectural legend Wright in Arizona, who had an ambitious plan to build cheap but cool “Usonian” houses for the masses. Hollingsworth came back to BC and started designing his own homes for the middle or working class, called Neoteric or Flying Arrow houses. The Neoterics had flat roofs, the Flying Arrows had pitched roofs.

The houses were small but felt much bigger because they had an open-concept and floor-to-ceiling windows.

“The intention when it was built was to be indoor-outdoor living, living as much outdoors as you do inside,” said Rodney. “So they cared more about access to light, access to nature.”

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arrow truss
The Flying Arrow home was designed with ‘scissor truss’ beams and clerestory windows. Photo by Jason Payne /PNGs

The Flying Arrow homes have high angled ceilings (probably 15 feet in points) and a stylish “scissor truss” system of wooden beams that are held up to the roof.

Hollingsworth designs also feature brick walls, which give them warmth, and large fireplaces that tend to be the architectural showpiece of the home.

In this case, the fireplace was five feet high and three feet wide. In a 1952 Western Living magazine story on the house, it says the original owner, Jim Atkins, burned three-foot-wide logs in the fireplace.

“This was more of a forested lot, back in the day,” said Rodney. “The owner would go out and cut their own logs for the fireplace.”

The lot still has plenty of green space, including a handful of seven-storey-tall Douglas firs. The lot also feels very private, because the big windows are at the back, the front has smaller windows that are at eye level.

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“I like to say it’s ‘discreet from the street,’ ” said Rodney.

But the house was designed for the postwar era, when developers were building modest homes for people with a limited budget. The house has only two bedrooms, one bathroom and has a galley kitchen, which is out-of-step with the largest contemporary homes in the neighborhood.

Some owners of Hollingsworth homes expand them — there is a Hollingsworth next door where they added a second floor. But builders tend to knock small houses like this down and build as big as the zoning allows.

In this case, though, the house quickly sold for the asking price to a couple who loved the house. In fact, they had just sold a Hollingsworth Neoteric house they’d lived in for 18 years.

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“What we like about West Coast modern (homes) in general is the welcoming feeling one gets in open concept living spaces,” Sue-Ann and Chris Gilmour said by email. “There is something calming about a home where there are no front steps. As you come in from outside, the transition is smooth and welcoming. The vaulted ceilings with Clerestory lights give you the feeling of a big space, even though the square footage is modest.

“There is a sense that you’re within a very tangible and thoughtfully designed piece of art, made specifically to the ground its occupants to the land and trees that surround it.”

The Gilmours did and addition to their first Hollingworth house to make room for their family of four. Their two boys have grown up and moved out, and they were looking for something smaller.

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“There are a few original Neoterics left, but no one wants to sell,” said the Gilmours. “The Flying Arrow was a perfect match for us.”

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Arrow outside
The Flying Arrow from the outside. Photo by Jason Payne /PNGs
Arrow back
The house has a big back deck for indoor outdoor living. Photo by Jason Payne /PNGs
Arrow fireplace
Fred Hollingsworth was known for his unusual fireplaces. In this case, it’s five feet high and four feet wide. Photo by Jason Payne /PNGs
Arrow dining
The home is mostly original, but at some point the original built-in dining table was replaced with a larger one. Photo by Jason Payne /PNGs
Arrow hallway
Even the hallway is architecturally interesting. Photo by Jason Payne /PNGs
sky bungalow ad
In 1950, North Vancouver architect Fred Hollingsworth designed a Sky Bungalow that was displayed by the Hudson’s Bay store in Downtown Vancouver. From the March 14, 1950, Vancouver Province.
Story on architect Fred Hollingsworth in the Fen. 15, 1949, Vancouver Province. He didn’t have an architecture degree at the time, so he was dubbed a ‘designer.’
Holling cut
Story on Capilano Highlands development in North Vancouver in the Jan. 2, 1949, Vancouver Province, which featured many designs by Fred Hollingsworth.
Architect Fred Hollingsworth and his wife, Phyllis, in their North Vancouver home that Fred designed in 2014. Photo by Ward Perrin /Vancouver Sun

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