Gwen Cash and the Trend House

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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.

Designed by John di Castri for Gwen Cash in 1954
The Trend House, Victoria

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.

Designed by John di Castri for Gwen Cash in 1954
Architectural drawings for the Trend House

 

© All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all blog content copyright Eve Lazarus.

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15 comments

  1. Sorry to let you know that a shortsighted town of Beaconsfield in concert with inaction from the Quebec government and the local member of the National Assembly has resulted in the demolition of the Montreal Trend House on May 31st witnessed by myself and Michael Fish . We have some video on YouTube. the rest is history!

  2. Hi Eve

    Just came across your posting while doing some research on the Trend House Program. The London, Ontario house at 544 Fanshawe Park Rd. is still standing but an addition was added at some point which takes away from the lines of the house. I believe the Halifax house is also still standing.

    Sandra

  3. Dear Eve,
    Thank you for this great article. We are researching Gwen Cash for inclusion in our database, and having an image of her house–and the address–is marvellous. I am about to go over to Victoria to see it (and L. Adams Beck’s home, and Emily Carr’s numerous residence–those I can). You have made my research that much easier!

    Karyn Huenemann
    Project Manager
    Canada’s Early Women Writers project
    SFU

    1. What a fabulous project, I’ve just signed up for email alerts. There is quite a lot more about Gwen Cash, memories of her from her grandson and some photos in my book Sensational Victoria. Cheers,
      Eve
      Eve Lazarus recently posted..Spy HouseMy Profile

  4. Dear Eve,
    Gwen Cash also spent time at the house out on the Saanich Peninsula that has the Douglas Fir tree growing up the middle of it… do you know exactly where that is? I’d love to see it, if it’s still there…

    Karyn Huenemann

  5. You might be interested in reading the article I did in 1995 on the Trend House Program. It was published in the SSAC Journal. I believe Stephen Winn might have a copy.

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