The fire-destroyed 4812 Belmont Dr. mansion hidden by hedges was not on Vancouver’s heritage list, but it was historic.
The 1920-built, three-storey structure with seven bedrooms and five bathrooms was home for 20 years to Liberal politician Gerry McGeer, whose mayoral legacy includes Vancouver’s art deco city hall at 12th and Cambie. McGeer died in his Belmont home in 1947, early in his second stint as mayor under the Non-Partisan Association banner after nine years in Ottawa where he sat in both the House of Commons and Senate.
The spectacular blaze on June 17, seen all the way from the North Shore, happened next door to another mansion destroyed by fire. In fact, firefighters snaked the big, yellow firehose past the charred, white tarp-obscured mansion at 4811 Fannin Ave., from the fire hydrant on Drummond Drive, to get to the rear of 4812 Belmont.
Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services recorded 26 fires in empty houses from 2016 to 2019. Latest stats are not available.
The .617-acre Belmont property, assessed last year at $14.175 million, is registered to Canada Yi He Developments Co. Ltd., a 2016-incorporated entity in Dunbar with the sole director being Fu Xiaoqin.
City hall issued a salvage and abatement permit to Canton Excavating in January, after an August 2019 application. Demolition was explicitly not allowed. A November 2021 building permit application, via Aurora Custom Homes, proposed a new two-storey with cellar dwelling, with hot tub and jacuzzi plus five-vehicle garage.
4811 Fannin Ave. Fire: Oct. 31, 2016
In 1976, the United Nations Habitat forum convened at Jericho Beach to ponder the future of human settlements. This mansion was built in the same year and marketed as a cottage by the sea. Then, 40 years later, a suspicious fire on Hallowe’en 2016.
In 2015, registered owners of the $12.728 million-assessed property, Ying Zheng and Quan Zhang, had contemplated major work. The city-issued permit allowed for exterior and interior alterations to relocate the driveway, add a covered breezeway and new dormer to what the bureaucrats called an “existing, nonconforming one-family dwelling with built-in swimming pool and two-car garage.”
How the dilapidated, five-bedroom, eight-bathroom structure appeared before the fire is on display via the “Abandoned Mansion in Vancouver Vlog” video on YouTube. Students from Vancouver College took a peek inside and emerged with images of a swimming pool containing more graffiti than putrid water. The video was dated Oct. 23, 2016, just days before the blaze.
The city issued a permit in March 2021 to remove 35 trees, replace 12 and keep 20. In February, a salvage and abatement permit after an October 2021 application.
3737 Angus Dr. Fire: Oct. 22, 2017
The 1911 Tudor mansion with distinctive, 50-foot-tall chimneys was built for insurance and real estate agent Frank Rounsefell. It somehow remains standing and is valued at $9.508 million.
Fire after an apparent Hallowe’en party destroyed much of the eight-bedroom, six-bathroom building and efforts to save it ground to a halt the next year. WorkSafeBC issued a stop work order because the fire damage was so extreme that inspectors feared the chimneys would fall on workers. Vancouver city hall accused the owners since 2012, Miaofei Pan and wife Wenhuan Yang, of failing to repair and maintain the heritage structure.
Pan made news across Canada and China in fall 2016 for hosting a private fundraiser with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at his other, 1989-built Shaughnessy mansion — where a suspicious fire engulfed the detached garage in 2019.
2250 SW Marine Dr. Fire: July 29, 2018
This 1925-built mansion on the 110 x 243 foot estate lot overlooking Marine Drive Golf Course had been advertised as a tear-down. That is what demolition crews did shortly after the July 29, 2018, three-alarm fire.
The graffiti-splashed, blackberry bush-covered 1948-built house behind fences two doors down at 2230 SW Marine was untouched.
The 2250 SW Marine property had been assessed at $4.66 million and on sale for that price by registered owner Sihan Guo through Sutton Group West Coast Realty’s Naomi Wang. Wang said she learned about the fire when she was contacted by a reporter.
It finally sold with a declared value of $3.49 million in 2020 and registered in January 2021 to Kerrisdale businesswoman Dan LI. It is now assessed at $3.831 million, but listed for $4.699 million through Dracco Pacific Realty’s Layla Yang and Frank Peng.