Shaughnessy walking tour

This walking tour will introduce you to Shaughnessy's history and architecture.

From its inception, the Shaughnessy neighbourhood commanded a special place in Vancouver. Its original developers, the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), designed the subdivision in the early part of the century as an exclusive enclave for Vancouver's wealthy, and named it after its president, Sir Thomas Shaughnessy. More recently, the City has adopted a special development plan for Shaughnessy, recognizing that all Vancouver residents have a stake in maintaining its splendid mansions and estate character. 

The entire tour will take about two hours and starts at 3351 Granville Street, near the corner of Granville Street and Marpole Avenue. For the best views of houses, walk the tour in the fall, winter, or spring, when leaves are off the trees. Whatever the season, however, your sightseeing will be somewhat frustrated by high hedges, gates, and fences.

 

Shaughnessy walking tour

By City of Vancouver

See photos and descriptions of the buildings indicated on the map.

  • McGavin House, 1652 Marpole Ave

    By City of Vancouver

    Few houses were built in Shaughnessy during the Depression. This house, for the owner of Vancouver's McGavin's Bakery, James McGavin, was one of the exceptions. Completed in 1940, it demonstrates a transition between the historical aesthetic of the 1920s and the modern aesthetic of the 1950s - a mansard roof with wall dormers and a robust entrance combines with low, compact massing. McGavin's house was one of several built on the edge of the huge lot originally occupied only by the mansion of CPR official Richard Marpole.

  • Huntting House, 3689 Angus Dr

    By City of Vancouver

    This house follows yet another variation on 19th-century English architecture. With rough stucco and a massive steep roof, the house was a very grand version of an English country cottage. The architect, junior partner Cecil Croker Fox (of Maclure and Fox), and the owner, W.F. Huntting, president of Huntting-Merritt Lumber Company, moved in the same social circles of Vancouver. They belonged to the same clubs and attended the same parties. The house was built between 1911-1913 and is almost identical to English architect C.F.A. Voysey’s own house "Orchard" near London, England.

  • Salsbury House, 1790 Angus Dr

    By City of Vancouver

    William Ferriman Salsbury, an official of the CPR, arrived in Vancouver on the first trans-continental train in 1887. He was among the first CPR officials to build in the newly-developed Shaughnessy. He commissioned architect A.A. Cox to design this house in 1912. The Mission Revival style features stucco cladding, moulded stucco trim, and a curvilinear gable end. In those days, without the competition of tall trees and thick hedges, the mansions were even more boldly imposing.

  • Hendry House, 3802 Angus Dr

    By City of Vancouver

    This Tudor Revival style house was built for the Hendry family in 1912-1914 and was designed by Maclure and Fox. The house features a porte cochere, or porch with a covered entrance for carriages and autos, which protected visitors from the elements as they made their appointed rounds of social calls. A coach house, not visible from the street, has been converted to a separate private residence. John Hendry arrived from New Brunswick in 1872 and worked in the burgeoning lumber industry. He began by working in local sawmills and eventually became president of B.C. Mills, Timber and Trading - the first large lumber conglomerate in British Columbia.

  • Lennie House, 1737 Matthews Ave

    By City of Vancouver

    This is yet another instance of the Tudor Revival's fairly firm grip on the imagination of the first generation of Shaughnessy homeowners. It was designed by the up-and-coming Vancouver architectural firm Sharp and Thompson in 1912 who went on to design a number of notable civic and institutional buildings in Vancouver.

  • Tait House, 1690 Matthews Ave

    By City of Vancouver

    William Lamont Tait nicknamed his house Glen Brae, or "valley by the mountains," and wanted its twin towers to remind him of the castles of his Scottish homeland. The house was built in 1910-1911 and its design is attributed to architects Parr and Fee. Rumour has it that the third- floor ballroom floor was laid over a padding of seaweed, providing plenty of spring for lively dances. In 1925, the Kanadian Knights of the Klu Klux Klan bought the house and paraded to it en masse to celebrate. Eventually the house was resold and operated as a private hospital for seniors. Before her death in 1992, Elisabeth Wlosinski willed Glen Brae to the City of Vancouver. It is now used as Canuck Place, a hospice for children.

  • Walsh House, 3589 Granville St

    By City of Vancouver

    This Craftsman house, built in 1912 and designed by architect H. Murray, has a hipped roof with deep overhanging eaves and brackets, a shingled upper storey and an irregularly coursed stone base cladding. The curved glass in the corner turret was imported at great expense. During the 1960s and 1970s members of a philosophical association, the John Westaway Society, lived in the house. Presently it is a private residence.

  • Infill Project, 1470 Matthews Ave

    By City of Vancouver

    This new housing, designed by architect Raymond Letkeman and completed in 1984-85, follows the guidelines of the City's First Shaughnessy Official Development Plan. The goal is to protect Shaughnessy's unique estate image and single-family character, while allowing infill and multiple - conversion projects. Here the original Tudor Revival style mansion has been subdivided into condominiums, and new townhouses and garages were constructed after the fashion of a coach house and stables.

  • Dissette House, 1437 Matthews Ave

    By City of Vancouver

    This typical, medium-sized Shaughnessy house was completed in 1912 during the initial, pre-World War I era of construction. Use it to test your knowledge of Shaughnessy's architectural history. What is its style? What features helped you identify it? (For clues, call to mind the Brenchley House #16, the Hendry House #4 and the Lennie House #5).

  • Rosemary, 3689 Selkirk St

    By City of Vancouver

    One of the largest estates in Shaughnessy, this large home’s grand Tudor Revival architecture is enhanced by its many notable landscape features. The house was designed by architects, Maclure and Fox in 1913-15 for A.E. Tulk, a prominent lawyer and businessman who affectionately named the estate after his only daughter, Rosemary. At one time, the estate was owned by The Order of the Convent of Our Lady of the Cenacle who carefully and lovingly maintained much of the building’s remarkable interior. In 1996, a Heritage Revitalization Agreement secured the protection of the estate and allowed a re-subdivision of the site and the creation of two additional single family lots.

  • Fleck House, 1296 The Crescent

    By City of Vancouver

    In 1929, nearly 20 years after the first Tudor Revival style house was built in Shaughnessy, the wealthy were still turning to that safe, familiar, acceptable look. Bryce Fleck and his brother made their money as industrial suppliers. The Fleck Brothers warehouse still stands at Alexander and Columbia Streets.

  • Nichol House, 1402 The Crescent

    By City of Vancouver

    The Nichol family lived in the modest, middle-class suburb of Fairview Slopes before building in elite Shaughnessy. In the 1890s Walter Nichol was a founder of the Province newspaper, and moved it from Victoria to Vancouver as the fortunes of the rival cities shifted. His house was built in 1913, was designed by architects Maclure and Fox and is an updated version of the English Arts and Crafts style. A stone base, shingled second storey and a broad roof with deep overhanging eaves are some of the notable design features of this house.

  • MacDonald House, 1388 The Crescent

    By City of Vancouver

    George MacDonald commissioned this house in 1912-1913 in the Neo-Classical Revival style, popular after the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Columns, porticos, pediments, and other classical details demonstrate this style. The history of the house's ownership mirrors the changes that have swept through Shaughnessy. Like many in the first generation of Shaughnessy owners, MacDonald was a CPR official with a fortune from mining and timber. In 1922 he sold his house to Robert Mann of the Canadian National Railway. The house was also known as the "Hollies," a popular spot for weddings until the 1950s. Eventually, the house was made into a multiple-conversion dwelling, and later still, occupied by a service agency. Recently, the house again became a private residence, reflecting efforts to reassert the viability of single-family homes in Shaughnessy.

  • Frederick Kelly House, 1393 The Crescent

    By City of Vancouver

    This house was designed in 1922 by Townley and Matheson, who are also responsible for designing Vancouver’s City Hall building. With its barn-like gambrel roof, it is a fine example of the Dutch Colonial Revival style. Like the Colonial Revival, this style underscored owners' status and substance by associating them with the "pioneers," the early Dutch settlers in New York and New Jersey. Frederick Kelly made his money as a wholesale grocer serving the growing Vancouver and B.C. markets.

  • McRae House, 1439 McRae Ave

    By City of Vancouver

    Alexander Duncan McRae made a fortune developing the resources of western Canada - in timber, coal mining, commercial fishing, and real estate. And he spent much of it on "Hycroft," a huge Neo-Classical Revival mansion designed by Thomas Hooper and built between 1910-1912. Unlike most early Shaughnessy owners, McRae chose for his mansion a location with a superb, wide-ranging view of greater Vancouver. The house was used as a veterans' hospital during World War II, and in 1962 was purchased by the University Women's Club. For a glimpse of the magnificent interior, look for announcements of their annual Christmas Craft Fair and Open House.

  • Brenchley House, 3351 Granville St

    By City of Vancouver

    Like many of its Shaughnessy neighbours, the Brenchley family chose to build a new house that looked instantly old and very English. The house was built in 1912 and was designed by the architectural firm of Maclure and Fox. The half-timbered effect of dark wood strips, contrasted with lighter expanses of stucco, is a feature of its Tudor Revival style. A wholesale grocer, Arthur Brenchley probably selected the style on the advice of his architect, Samuel Maclure, who made his name building similar houses in Victoria.

A neighbourhood created by the CPR

At the turn of the century, Vancouver was booming. Its population nearly quadrupled in a decade, reaching just over 100,000 by 1911. Prairie wheat poured into Vancouver by the boxcarful. And in return, the city's entrepreneurs scrambled to supply western towns with timber, fish, and consumer goods. They tapped new markets within British Columbia too, as settlements struck it rich with mining or lumbering. In downtown Vancouver, well-paid newcomers fresh from the east opened up branch offices of banks and insurance companies.

The Canadian Pacific Railway, the city's largest landowner and real estate developer, had its nose to the wind. It noticed that the traditional home of the city's elite, the West End, was losing its exclusive character. New apartment buildings were crowding the family mansions. In 1907 the CPR embarked on an ambitious plan to develop a tract of forest into a Garden City suburb.

The railway commissioned Montreal landscape architect, Frederick Todd, and Danish engineer, M. Davick, to lay out curving streets and generous lots of one-fifth to one-and-one-half acre. Before the lots were sold, sewers were laid and sidewalks paved. Lot prices were comparable to other Vancouver neighbourhoods, but the CPR protected Shaughnessy’s exclusive character by requiring that any house built cost at least $6,000 (at a time when a standard bungalow might cost $1,000).

Vancouver's more affluent residents found in Shaughnessy a neighbourhood that reflected their wealth and status. They appreciated its location on the edge of the city, a dignified distance from their downtown offices. After all, they could afford to keep carriages and horses, or motorcars, and live all the way out in Shaughnessy. The CPR ensured that they could enjoy favourite pastimes, sponsoring the nearby Vancouver Tennis Club, the Lawn Bowling Club, and eventually the Shaughnessy Heights Golf Club. So successful was Shaughnessy's appeal to the city's elite that the CPR also developed adjacent acres to the south as "Second Shaughnessy" and "Third Shaughnessy."

Shaughnessy architecture

A glance at the photographs in this tour reveals the character of the First Shaughnessy residence: large, grand, and reminiscent of other older houses built elsewhere – in Renaissance England and in colonial America. Architects such as Samuel Maclure translated their clients' desires for status and stability into "revival" styles, such as Tudor and Classical, that invoked English and American values. These values were also evident in the large, private gardens and significant landscaping features.

Shaughnessy reveals the impact that deliberate planning and restrictive zoning can have on neighbourhood development. The CPR took pains to protect Shaughnessy's exclusive character, and thereby the value of its lots. Prior to 1929 when the current boundaries of the City of Vancouver were established, Shaughnessy was part of the municipality of Point Grey. In 1914, the railway tried to withdraw Shaughnessy from Point Grey and establish it as a separate municipality. But the provincial government refused. Instead, it passed the Shaughnessy Settlement Act of 1914, permitting only single-family houses in the area. In 1922, the Province enacted the Shaughnessy Heights Building Restriction Act, prohibiting new subdivisions of lots and permitting only one single-family dwelling per lot.

Shaughnessy landscape

The streets and parks of Shaughnessy were as carefully planned as its houses. The CPR hired the Montreal firm of Todd and Davick to design the subdivision. They were inspired by the work of Frederick Law Olmsted, who had designed Central Park in New York City. With curving streets, offset intersections, and broad planted boulevards, the landscape architects created a restful landscape within the city. In Shaughnessy's open, pastoral acres, the well-to-do could feel safely distant from the noise, congestio, and diversity of city living.

Social customs

The magnificent elaboration of manners and social customs during the Edwardian era was mirrored in the many specialized public areas of these houses. Carriages drew up under porte-cocheres, guests were received in huge furnished halls. There were reception rooms, music rooms, ballrooms, and parlours of every description. One look at these houses suggests the large staff required to stage these lavish entertainments. Imagine the many servants who trod miles of corridor and climbed thousands of steps in any one of these houses. The back doors of these houses were usually busier than the front entrances – with deliveries of food, fuel, flowers, and ice, and streams of messengers, tradesmen, and applicants for under-parlour maid.

The Depression

The Depression of the 1930s hit Shaughnessy hard. The huge houses were expensive to maintain and property taxes were held at high, pre-Depression rates. As the CPR repossessed house after house, the area was nicknamed "Mortgage Heights." The Tait House, for example, was valued at $75,000 in 1920 and sold for $7,500 in 1939. Many wealthy residents fled to other parts of the city, and despite the provincial restrictions, many single-family houses were converted into rooming houses or multiple-conversion dwellings.

In 1938, residents who remained began to lobby for stricter enforcement of the building restrictions of 1914 and 1922. The Shaughnessy Heights Property Owners Association successfully petitioned to extend the restrictions on multiple-conversion dwellings, and created a complaint process for prosecuting offenders. But the World War II housing shortage eroded the property owners' gains, as the federal government opened many districts, including Shaughnessy, to more multiple-conversion dwellings.

Compromise

After World War II, the problem of Shaughnessy's future arose once again. An association of landlords of rooming houses squared off against the Property Owners' Association. The Province compromised, allowing all multiple-conversion dwellings from before 1955 to remain, but keeping the Building Restriction Act of 1922 on the books. In the 1970s the act finally expired. For the first time, Shaughnessy was subject to the give-and-take of the City's zoning decisions that had shaped other Vancouver neighbourhoods. The boom in land values created new pressures to subdivide. Many of the newer houses on smaller, 75 foot-wide lots were built during this period.

Today

In 1981 the City passed a bylaw creating the First Shaughnessy Official Development Plan, which attempts to preserve the area's pre-1940 estate image and single-family character while allowing some infill and conversion to multiple family use. Now applicants for development permits must demonstrate compatibility with the plan's guidelines. Once again, Shaughnessy's special character is protected by special legislation.