As you’re strolling down Davie, and heading towards English Bay, you’ll inevitably come across a large mansion at 1523 Davie Street. Up until 2020, you could get some pretty decent views of this Victorian-era structure. Now, though, most of it is obscured by construction fencing, which itself is covered in graffiti. The end result is an attraction you can’t see much of and that’s a shame because this mansion is both architecturally beautiful and rife with history. And, in the current day, it’s only the history that’s of much interest. Here’s my Coles Notes version:
Gabriola Mansion – so named because stones were quarried from Gabriola Island for its construction – was built between 1900 and 1901 for BT Rogers, the founder of BC Sugar (better-known today as Rogers). After Rogers died, his widow moved into another home and “The Mansion” was converted into apartments in 1925. Beginning in 1978, “The Mansion” was converted into a high-end restaurant, Hy’s Mansion. By all accounts, the restaurant was a massive success and popular with some of Vancouver’s upper class. In 1994, Romano’s Macaroni Grill took over the space and operated it for just over a decade. Gabriola Mansion has sat vacant since 2008; however, it was purchased by Carrera Management Group in 2015 and they intend to “restore it to its former glory” by converting it into rental apartments and adding a couple of townhouses to the property. While it’s nice to know the building won’t be torn down to make way for yet another condo, the addition of townhouses seems rather off-putting. Anyway, it’s taken half a decade, but it looks like Carrera is finally getting on with the renovation and restoration work.
Like most old edifices, Gabriola Mansion has its share of ghost stories – some of which are rather intriguing and help add to the allure of this place (which, admittedly, is greatly reduced by all the fencing currently around the property). If you want to read about those, I recommend checking out the “Ghosts of Vancouver” site.
I really wish I could give this place a higher rating, but it’s incredibly difficult to appreciate the architecture and some of the detail work from afar. The history behind Gabriola Mansion is certainly interesting, but that alone doesn’t necessitate a visit to this mostly blocked off site.
Gabriola Mansion is a relic of times long past and it looks out of place in the current day. At one time, though, it was just one of many opulent homes in this part of Vancouver’s West End. Those have all gone the way of the dodo; thus, “The Mansion” is quite literally the last of its kind. Let’s hope that, once the renovation/restoration work is completed, we’ll be able to fully appreciate this historic home again.