See the full story in Sensational Victoria: Bright lights, red lights, murders, ghosts and gardens
Stephen Winn and Sandi Miller used to go out of their way to drive past 3516 Richmond Road in Victoria.
As part of the Trend House program, the house was one of 11 built in 1954 and sponsored by BC forest industries to boost retail lumber, plywood and shingle sales.
“My wife and I are big fans of mid-century modern and we were looking for a year and a half and not ever thinking that we would have an opportunity to purchase the Trend House,” says Winn. “It just popped on the market and we couldn’t believe our luck. We got in and purchased it, all in the space of about 48 hours.”
Winn and Miller and their two small children have lived in the house since October 2009.
At 835 square feet, the one-bedroom Richmond Road house was the smallest, designed for Gwen Cash by architect John di Castri to prove that small didn’t have to mean a box.
Constructed mostly of hemlock, the main roof runs the length of the house and is supported by diamond-shaped trusses. Huge plate glass windows look out to the Sooke hills.
“Part of the excitement for us is that the architecture of that period is intended to bridge the indoors and the outdoors,” he says. “We are making it a family home while trying to stay true to the spirit of the house.”
The second owner added two rooms and a sun porch after Cash sold in the late 1960s and the house is now around 1,300 square feet.
Gwen Cash (1891-1983) dubbed her house “Broom Corner” after the shrub that grew all around her. Cash was one of the first women reporters in Canada when she went to work for Walter Nichol at the Vancouver Daily Province in 1917.
She moved around the province with her husband Bruce, eventually settling in Victoria in 1935. She worked as the public relations officer at the Empress Hotel for a decade and wrote three books including her memoir, Off the Record in which she wrote that di Castri “designed a house that frankly took my breath away, so imaginative was it.”
“Mine was the smallest of the trend houses but the most talked and written about. Conventional Victorian viewers, addicted to pseudo-Tudor or modern box construction, were puzzled and vaguely angered by its unique design. Like modern painting it was something that they couldn’t understand.”
Cash went on to say she’d heard the house described as a flying saucer, a little gem, a big-little house and a fun house.
The house was opened to the public for three months and more than 34,000 people treked through. For months after, people continued to come from all over the world to see it.
“Who was I to say, ‘you can’t come in,’ especially if they looked interesting, and they mostly did,” wrote Cash.
Winn says they haven’t had anyone pressing the front door chimes yet, but cars often slow down to take a look and people snap photos of the house.
The other trend houses are in Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, London, Winnipeg, Regina and Edmonton. There’s also one at 4342 Skyline Drive, North Vancouver, designed by Porter & Davidson Architects. Michael Kurtz owns the Calgary trend house.
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