Description of Historic Place
A landmark building for its size, eclectic design and prominence, Canuck Place is an unusually twin-turreted mansion prominently located on Matthews Avenue in Vancouver’s Shaughnessy neighbourhood. The house is fronted by spacious gardens and a perimeter stone wall with elaborate ironwork.
Constructed in 1910, Canuck Place is important for its aesthetics, its association with the development of the Shaughnessy neighbourhood in the early 20th century, as part of the body of work of prominent Vancouver architects John Parr and Thomas Fee, and for its association with Canuck Place.
The house was built as part of the Shaughnessy neighbourhood developed by the Canadian Pacific Railway as a way to influence standards of housing and development for profit. Palatial lots and grand houses, reflecting the values of the time, created a unique aesthetic environment, with housing stock that was influenced by styles from different periods of English history. Canuck Place was built by shingle manufacturer and real estate developer William L. Tait in a style reminiscent of the castles of Tait’s native Scotland.
Through its design, size, owner and architects, the house expresses the robust economic context of Vancouver in the early 20th century when new, architect-designed homes were a sign of conspicuous consumption by newly rich entrepreneurs.
Parr and Fee formed their partnership in 1899, acting as both architects and speculative developers. They found success during Vancouver’s boom years before the First World War, and were very prolific, designing high-end housing for clients with money to spend.
Used briefly in 1925 as the Vancouver headquarters of the Klu Klux Klan, the house represents the decline in rental property and the economy generally, as well as the racial intolerance of the time.
The eclectically-designed house is valued for its exuberant aesthetic appeal, featuring numerous details including a symmetrical facade with rounded turrets, large entry porch, decorative detailing and use of a variety of materials. With its central pathway, curved drive, mature trees and shrub plantings, the remarkable garden to the front and side of the house is a central feature of the place, contributing to its estate-like quality.
The garden is defined by the surrounding stone wall and enormous wrought-iron fence imported from Scotland. The mansion has some remarkable interior features including stained-glass windows, fireplaces, and wood and tile finishes.
Bequeathed to the City of Vancouver in 1991 and re-opened in 1995 as Canuck Place, a hospice for children with life-threatening illnesses. The house is important for its current use and for its association with the spirit of philanthropy in the city. The large garden provides an important aspect of the children’s experience.
Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program
The character-defining elements of Canuck Place include its:
- situation on a high point of land at the confluence of two streets in Shaughnessy
- siting to the rear of the lot, typical of the Shaughnessy area, and contributing to the estate-like character of the property
- unique form, dominated by round twin turrets with bell-cast roofs, a trademark of the architects
- expansive flat-roofed entry porch
- window form and design, including unusual arched openings on third floor turret
- highly ornate detailing overall, including stone watertable coursing, wood window trim, especially at head and sill, porch columns with capitals, wood dentil work at base of shingled wall areas, under third floor turret windows, and at top of walls at soffits, shaped lookouts at soffits and glazed terra cotta cladding on first storey
- wrought iron fencing, gates, and lighting at street property line
- stone perimeter wall
- paving and curbing
- garden with central walkway, mature trees and clipped shrub planting
- interior features, including stained-glass windows, fireplaces, and wood and tile finishes