604 Neighbourhoods is a new weekly series appearing on the Inside Vancouver blog that will feature photos, history, and information about some of the cityâ€™s most distinct communities. Today’s feature is Shaughnessy – the residential neighbourhood that is packed with history, opulence, and gloriously green gardens.
In the early days of the City of Vancouver the West End was the main residential core but toward the end of the first decade of the 20th century, Shaughnessy was developed by the Canadian Pacific Railway and it soon became a popular place to build your home — or stately mansion.
Shaughnessy is bounded by 16th Avenue to the north, 41st Avenue to the south, Oak Street to the east, and Arbutus/West Boulevard to the west. The typical Vancouver grid system for streets and avenues doesn’t quite fit here as the roads instead loop and curve with the shape of the hillside, the area being one of the highest points in the city aside from Queen Elizabeth Park.
This primarily residential community, features several private and public schools, and offers some of the best views of the city — mostly from backyards and private residences but you might get a peek from Angus Park or Shaughnessy Park (inside The Crescent). The Crescent (the circular roadway pictured below) loops around a green space ideal for picnics, tossing the Frisbee around, or reading a book in the shade of a nearby tree.
The neighbourhood is split down the middle by Granville Street. On the east side it borders Oak Street (coffee shops, corner stores, parks, playing fields, hospitals) and crossing west over Granville you head down toward Kerrisdale (shopping, galleries, community amenities) and Quilchena Park. Packed in between are long driveways, wrought iron gates, and famous mansions.
Named after Sir Thomas Shaughnessy, an American-born, Canadian Pacific Railway administrator, the affluent and historic neighbourhood has seen some influential (and infamous) residents over the years.
Glen Brae and Hycroft Manor probably have the most colourful pasts. Glen Brae on Matthews Avenue was once home to the Canadian headquarters of the Ku Klux Klan, Glen Brae Private Hospital, and in 1995 it became Canuck Place Children’s Hospice, North America’s first free-standing children’s hospice.
Hycroft Manor, home of the University Women’s Club today, was named for the mansionâ€™s builder Brigadier General Alexander Duncan McRae. In 1909 the 30-room home on 5.2 acres (complete with bowling alley, pool, and coach house) was built for $109,000 â€” an enormous sum at the time. Due to rising costs and need for up-keep, the McRaes donated the mansion to the government in 1942. During the war it became Shaughnessy Military Hospital, serving as an auxiliary facility for 18 years. It was eventually taken over by the University Womenâ€™s Club in 1962.
Heritage Vancouver hosts annual walking tours of some of the heritage houses that open their doors to the public. Shaughnessy is also a popular stop during the Vancouver Trolley Company’s Haunted Halloween tours in the fall.
Strolling down the sleepy streets of Shaughnessy you’ll be peppered with cherry blossom confetti, crunch fallen chestnuts on the sidewalk, spot families out walking their dogs, and hear the chirping of birds drown out the sounds of the city below. The main attraction in Shaughnessy is VanDusen Botanical Garden which was the home of the Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club from 1911 to 1960.
It was owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway and was leased by the Shaughnessy Golf Club from 1911 until 1960 when the golf club moved to a new location. The railway proposed a subdivision, but was opposed by many citizens. In 1966, the VanDusen Botanical Garden Association was formed to assist the Vancouver Park Board with saving the site. This effort was successful and the land was purchased with shared funding from the City of Vancouver, the Government of British Columbia and the Vancouver Foundation with a donation by W. J. VanDusen, after whom the Garden was named. [Source: VanDusen]
VanDusen Botanical Garden officially opened to the public on August 30, 1975 and they recently opened a new visitor centre. You can pop in to tour the variety of gardens within the gates or to attend a special event such as a gala, art show, painting class, the very popular annual Festival of Light and other creative activities. Truffles Cafe offers up delicious bakery and deli snacks, the Garden Shop will help with your green thumb, and Shaughnessy Restaurant offers elegant fine dining.