The Best Thing I Ate All Week: Beaucoup Bakery’s Pistachio Raspberry Cake
Live Spot Prawns Are Only Here for a Month—and You Can Try Them at This Festival
Cupcake Thief Breaks Into Vancouver Bakery, Cleans Up Glass, Takes Selfies and Leaves
Succession Is Over: Now It’s Time To Watch the Greatest Show About Wine Ever Made
Our 2023 Sommelier of the Year Franco Michienzi of Elisa Steakhouse Shares His Top Wine Picks
We’ve Scored a Major Discount for VanMag Readers at the Best Wine Festival in Town
Meet OneSpace, the East Vancouver Co-working Space That Offers On-site Childcare
What You Missed at the VMO 2022/23 Season Finale Concert
Protected: Visit the Joint Replacement Center of Scottsdale
Wellness in Whistler-Your Ultimate Early Summer Retreat
Local Summer Getaway: 3 Beautiful Okanagan Farm Tours
Local Summer Getaway: Golfing at Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass
The Latest in Cutting-Edge Kitchen Appliances
7 Spring-y Shopping Picks, From a Lightweight Jacket to a Fresh Face Cleanser
Is There a Distinctly “Vancouver” Watch?
These houses look like they should be in Lord of the Rings, not Vancouver.
As someone who has slept through Return of the King in theatres twice and had to fact -check just now that that is, in fact, the name of the third Lord of the Rings movie (which one was the king again? Dumbledore?), I admit that I am probably not the target demographic for hobbit architecture. Did I even see the first two? I don’t remember. Wake me up when we’re talking about a trilogy I care about (the Look Who’s Talking series). And yet here I am, living in a city with three hobbit-themed houses, each quainter and more suited to whatever “elevenses” is (elf brunch?) than the last. You’ve most certainly noticed the unusual thatched, wavy roofs and leaded windows if you’ve ever taken a long drive down Broadway or King Edward to cool off after an argument with your husband about whether the baby in Look Who’s Talking had to learn to lip-sync or if it was done digitally.
Despite my disinterest in everyone’s favourite fantasy franchise-which was clearly just designed to be a product placement vehicle for the powerful Ring Industry-it’s hard to resist the storybook charm of these houses. Built on rubble-stone foundation and topped with steambent cedar shingles, each cottage hearkens back to the good ol’ days, when Canadians valued whimsy over structural engineering. All three hobbit houses were built in the 1940s as collaborations between architect Ross Anthony Lort (biography title idea: Lort of the Rings) and builder Brenton Lea (biography title idea: Lea-turn of the King). The first, located at 3979 West Broadway, became Lea’s own 3,000-square-foot family home, which he intended to look like a cottage from Shakespearean times but which came out more like a cottage that was put through the dryer accidentally when it was supposed to be dry-clean only. Whether or not that signature lumpy roof was intentional, it was charming enough that Lort and Lea (co-biography title idea: L.L. Cool Rings) built a second for a CNR foreman at 587 West King Edward and a third in West Van at 885 Braeside Street, presumably for some sort of old-money gnome.
These unique units have avoided demolition with “B” category (maybe it stands for “Bilbo”?) heritage designations, and new townhouse complex King Edward Green was actually built around the 75-year-old hobbit house on the property: the cottage itself will soon be renovated and sold to a new resident. Because here in Vancouver, the ultimate quest is to become the one developer to rule them all.
Originally published in the September 2018 issue of Vancouver Magazine.