Friday, January 27, 2012

CPR and Shaughnessy

For a little while now I have been showing you photos of homes in Shaughnessy and telling you about the history of those homes. But what about the area itself?

Spanning an area of 447 hectares, Shaughnessy is Vancouver's wealthiest district with an average annual household income of $136,252 and family income of $153,895.  (According to a 2001 census)

Many of the homes built here were constructed either prior to or during World War II compared to 20.8% of the city at large.
Shaughnessy is bordered by 16th Avenue to the north, 41st Avenue to the south, Oak Street to the east and Arbutus Street/West Boulevard to the west. Its population is about 9020 with that coming from 2970 homes.

This area was developed by the CPR, the largest land developer at the time. It was named for the Canadian Pacific Railway's president from 1898 to 1918, Thomas George Shaughnessy.  Thomas went on to become Lord Shaughnessy.

In 1907 Richard Marpole, the general superintendent and executive assistant of CPR, began to subdivide a large tract of land which was on a hill south of False Creek. CPR was interested in making this area attractive and appealing to Vancouver's elite. It had to project the wealth and status of our more affluent residents and this exclusive neighbourhood would bring in former residents of the West End's Blue Blood Alley.

A Montreal architect by the name of Frederick Todd was hired to lay out the area in generous lots. Todd was inspired by Frederick Law Omstead - the architect who designed New York's Central Park.

Before any of the lots went on sale, CPR spent $2,000,000 preparing the site. Sewer lines were put in as were paved sidewalks and roads.

As I stated earlier the CPR wanted this neighbourhood to be exclusive and they ensured it would be by insisting that the homes cost five times or more that of any other home in Vancouver. Only the truly wealthy would reside here, on a hill looking over the rest of Vancouver. At least it was like that at the time.

A typical early Shaughnessy home consisted of twenty rooms that were filled with opulent furniture, silverware and other trappings that reflected the wealth and status of the owners. These were mansions with music rooms, parlours of every sort, reception rooms and ballrooms. There were also basement rooms labelled in architectural designs as Chinaman's Quarters where the servants - many of whom were Asian - would live. Family members would beckon the servants by using in house call boxes.

Guests were delivered in horse-drawn carriages under porte-cocheres then ushered into grand foyers. Of course that was before the arrival of the automobile. Deliveries and tradesmen naturally went to the rear of the house making this the busier area.

CPR's promoters were quite keen on getting the posh residents to move to the new neighbourhood and enticed the people by extending the BC Electric's Interurban to the new subdivision. The new area also had a tennis club, a lawn bowling club and later the Shaughnessy Heights Golf Club.

Shaughnessy was built in three sections and developed in phases. The first surrounded Shaughnessy Park and was called The Crescent. Then there were areas further south that were called Second Shaughnessy and Third Shaughnessy.
From 1911 through the twenties Shaughnessy was the place to be. Then World War I halted the growth in Vancouver and the Great Depression of the 1930s stalled advancement even more. The CPR was repossessing home after home and Shaughnessy became known as Mortgage Heights. The Tait House, valued at $75,000 in 1920 sold for $7,500 in 1939.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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