This lovely mansion in Vancouver was built by sugar magnate B.T. Rogers , starting in 1915 and finishing in 1925 . In 1935, it was purchased by local businessman Austin C. Taylor , who raised a family there. One of his daughters, Patricia, married William F. Buckley (yes, that W.F.B.) on the estate, and she became the well-known New York socialite , ‘Make-up Adventuress’ Pat Buckley. I used to see her picture everywhere, from ‘W’ to Vanity Fair, to the Warhol diaries . In the early 1970′s, townhouses and apartments were built dotted around the ten acres of grounds . They were designed by Canada’s most famous architect, Arthur Erickson, and even though I had no money and could not afford it, I moved into one immediately ! I didn’t last long . My sprawling, two bedroom with a sunken living room, walk-in closet and in-suite laundry was crazy expensive (for a 20 year old !) and I ended up doing a ‘midnight run’. Fast forward twenty years, and our fates were to meet again……..
This lovely photo in GARDENS ILLUSTRATED magazine shows our antique greenhouse. This structure was once the estate greenhouse at SHANNON, and was originally 160 feet long ! It was used for everything, including growing grapes and rumoured to once house a pet penguin ! Sometime in the late 1950′s, a local commercial orchid grower, LeNobel Orchids, moved the entire greenhouse to Richmond, B.C. And, wouldn’t you know it, I went to school and grew up in Richmond. That is another tale, but I remember sneaking around their ‘burn pile’ and rescuing huge chunks of Cattleya orchid plants for myself. I was fourteen years old, and had a backyard greenhouse. About 15 years ago, Brent and I wanted to find a used greenhouse for the nursery. On a whim, Brent went out to the former site of LeNobel Orchids, who had moved to Surrey, B.C. and are still in business. The property had been sold to a fish packing plant and was soon to be bulldozed. Tomorrow. We told our landlord about it and he bought the greenhouse and had it re-erected at Southlands. We only used 80 feet of it , replacing an existing poly tunnel . It has been a visual treat ever since, but not very practical. The glass was beginning to slip and heating it was a nightmare. So, this year we are restoring it . Foundry marks on some of iron gables are from 1904, and it was made in England by Boulton & Paul Ltd., of Norwich.
So, as work proceeds, I am going to post pictures here showing the process . I am inspired to re-merchandise this charming building and cannot wait until it is ready for our busy spring season ! Be sure to drop by and see the restored glasshouse, but I doubt if we’ll have a penguin .