Monday, April 15, 2013

House of Hatred and Healing

These photos of 1690 Matthews Street are from the collection from the Vancouver Library. All were taken in 1925 by Leonard Frank, including the one of the KKK.

In 1907, retired B.C. lumberman, William Lamont Tait, hired the pre-eminent design team of Parr and Fee to design and build this majestic home in Shaughnessy.

The home boasts 18 rooms, one of them a ballroom that takes up the entire third floor! And the floor of that ballroom is under laid with a thick and flexible layer of seaweed so that the surface is less stressful on the feet of those walking over it.

The wrought iron fence on the Matthews side of the property was imported from Scotland.

The three outer photos were taken by Leonard Frank in 1938 and the lower picture of a room in the mansion was taken in 1940 by the same photographer. I obtained these from the Vancouver Library online collection.

Tait had lavish tastes and that is evident throughout the house. Although how much was Tait's idea and how much were Parr and Fee's, is not known.

There are six bathrooms in Glen Brae Manor and one of them has a stained glass window of a sailing scene. A three metre stained glass window on the west wall shows a rural scene somewhere in Ontario.

The house has Italian crystal doorknobs, brass chandeliers, baked and polished brick, a $16,000 embroidery of Victoria Falls and one of British Columbia's first elevators. (Mrs. Tate had lost a leg so the elevator had been installed for her convenience.)

In 1919, Tait died and his wife followed a year later. The house then began a slow decline.

These photos are from 1940, taken by Leonard Frank and obtained through the Vancouver Library online collection.

I have already told you that the Klu Klux Klan resided here for a period of time so I won't go into that again.

In 1929, Tait House became a kindergarten and it was leased for $75 a month. Then in the 1930s, the mansion once again was noticed. It was nicknamed the Mae West House in honor of a new star of the silver screen.

In 1980, this was the Glen Brae Private Hospital and occupied by numerous elderly women. The elevator was changed into a dumbwaiter and used to bring the ladies' food from the kitchen. The owners, Julian and Elizabeth Wlosinski, lived upstairs. They had changed the 15 metre ballroom into their living room and it was flanked by two bedrooms - each of which boasted 10 arched windows.

When Elizabeth died in 1991, the mansion was left to the city on the condition that it be used for a purpose that would benefit the community. Glen Brae Manor or Tait House or The Mae West House would eventually become Canuck Place Children's Hospice. And I will write on that on Wednesday.

The top two photos were taken by Leonard Frank in 1940 but the bottom one was taken by me in 2011. Around Halloween as you can see.

Recently my father was hospitalized again. He and my mother have been going through a lot of problems lately due to the fact that they can't seem to get enough coverage with the home care. My mother has been my father's main caregiver.

Last fall my mother had to go in for back surgery and lately she has been having more problems with her back, which is scary. The company who supplied the home care workers kept cutting back the help they would give. 

I wrote an email to my parents' MLA who also happens to be Premier Christy Clark. Jordan from her office was assigned to look into the matter of perhaps getting them more assistance. I am happy to say that in a very short time, extra help is being given. That takes the burden off  my mother and hopefully my father's health will continue to improve.

Who says the government doesn't care? I just found out that they do. Thank you Jordan and Premier Clark for reinforcing my belief that our province is in good hands.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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  1. Beautiful photos and great story Karen. I am so glad your parents are getting the help that they need. Hats off for your government for doing the right thing. That is something we don't really think about until you need the help!!!

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. My parents getting the help they need is one worry off my mind though I know there will be more in the near future! LOL

  2. Karen you have done another fine job on your blog. Love the history of that house. My cousin has changed her name in marriage about as many times as that house has changed its name. Your greatest fan Lana Lee

    1. Thank you Lana for the comments. I got a chuckle out them! I am glad you liked the blog entry. On Wednesday you will learn more about this fine place.

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