In our research we have come across wonderful descriptions of local houses that give us much more than a simple account of a building. One such story from the local 1882 and 1890 papers provides us with great colour.
Referred to as the Ewen Villa, the house was constructed for Alexander Ewen, one of the leaders in the Fraser River salmon fishing industry and owner of several processing plants and canneries.
The 1882 story says the two-storey building with granite foundation was of the San Francisco style of architecture.
The reporter's description was positive: "The exterior is handsome to look upon. The interior is the perfection of convenience and comfort" and when completed it would be "a thing of beauty."
In 1890, this house was undergoing some "alterations and improvements" under the direction of architect, G. W. Grant and once again a story appeared.
From other available information, we know the 1882 vintage house was enlarged and embellished for the 1890 version and became, as the latter article called it, "a palatial residence."
The home had features and ornamental additions that included many pieces of stained glass, double glass doors in the hallway, highly polished wood panels, a magnificent open tiled fireplace, a conservatory "spacious enough to hold quite a flower garden," fresco art work on a ceiling, another open tiled fireplace with "pillars of Mexican onyx," and a grand stairway that was "a study in decorative art."
The new version of the Ewen home had also graduated from being simply "a thing of beauty" to "one of the prettiest and most comfortable houses in the Dominion of Canada."
And where was this "palatial thing of beauty" with the area in front of it cleared and looking out to the river?
It was downtown at the corner of Begbie Street at Carnarvon where the Russell Hotel, later the College Place Inn, was situated.
The home was lost to the city's Great Fire of 1898, but its siting certainly adds an interesting piece of local colour to that part of town.
In May, the Historical Society will feature an illustrated presentation on the neighbourhood of the Anvil Centre, and the Ewen home will be included as it stood directly above the new civic building location.
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