Friday, March 27, 2015

Vancouver Elegance

The year was 1900 and it was the beginning of the Golden Years in Vancouver. For the city's rich, from then until 1914, was a time of Edwardian elegance. In the CPR controlled West End, the city's upper class created a privileged world consisting of proper  British comforts. Fantastic mansions, surrounded by clipped hedges and holly bushes, were built along Davie, Denman and Robson Streets.

Benjamin Tingley  Rogers built the Gabriola, a stately Victorian mansion, which occupied two lots at Davie and Nicola. Gabriola was designed by Samuel Maclure and reported to have cost $25,000 - "probably twice as much as the next best residence in the city."

Inside Rogers's home was elaborate wood panelling imported from England, 18 fireplaces, opulent stained glass and the city's first concrete basement. You can see photos I took of the Gabriola in 2011 in this entry.

More than three quarters of the city's elite lived in the West End in 1908. That is according to Vancouver's Elite Directory. The West End was a haven, allowing the upper crust to insulate themselves against the surrounding wilderness.

The world of a woman revolved around  "at home" days and garden parties. These parties were held in a different part of the neighbourhood on each day of the week. A man's life, outside of business that is, consisted of exclusive clubs - the Terminal City Club, the Vancouver Lawn and Tennis Club, the Vancouver Yacht Club. The most sanctified club was simply called the Vancouver Club. The children of the West End attended private schools. It sounds like it was very sheltered.

However, the city was rapidly developing and the West End, once considered "out of town" was falling under urban pressure. Fortunately, the elite had another option to escape the common folk. The CPR was developing Shaughnessy Heights, an even more rarefied neighbourhood on the southern rise above 16th and Granville. 

These lots were highly restricted and costly but once offered for sale, wealthy buyers lined up around the block to purchase their share. They wanted to be part of the land touted as the most exclusive residential area west of Mount Royal and South of Nob Hill.

Thanks to the book Vancouver; A History in Photographs by Aynsley Vogel and Dana Wyse for the above information. 

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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