The Dales House at 414 Alexander Street circa 1890 CVA Photo SGN 490

Friday, December 4, 2009

1518 Laurier - Shaughnessy Heritage House Up In Smoke

When I write an introduction to one of my house histories, I usually end up with the line, "....and at 1518 Laurier, life goes on and the stories continue." Well in this case there has been a suspicious death and the stories are certainly continuing.

A few days back, a stately home at 1518 Laurier, just off Granville Street was severely damaged in a suspicious fire. I don't know how many people "tweeted" about it, but I know the event got people in the heritage community all atwitter.

I heard about it in an e-mail from a fellow Heritage Vancouver Society board member, and when I read the subject line my heart gave a jump. I knew he address... I had been hired to research that very house just a while back!

I haven't a clue really why there was a fire and I don't know details about who died and why. No doubt this will all be revealed to us in due time. But I do know the history of the house from the time it was built up until 2001, so here is what I know for those of you who are interested.

First Occupants – The McCrossan Family
The house at 1518 Laurier, originally numbered 3937 Granville Street, first makes its appearance in the city directories in 1913 as the home of Scottish-born Thomas McCrossan. Prior to moving to their new house on Granville Street at Laurier, the McCrossan family lived in the West End at 759 Bute Street. According to the 1911 census, Thomas McCrossan was born in Scotland on the 4th of March, 1834, of Irish heritage. His father’s name was Thomas McCrossan and his mother’s maiden name was Denniston. He came to Canada in 1848 and to BC in 1904. His wife, Jane Macdonald, was born in Ontario on May 21, 1841 of Scottish heritage. Her father’s name was Donald Macdonald. In 1911, two of their children were living with them, 47 year-old electrician John Alexander McCrossan, born in Chatham, Ontario in January of 1864 and their 27 year-old daughter Eva who was born in Manitoba in September of 1883. The McCrossan family were Methodists. John Alexander McCrossan died at 759 Bute Street on December 8, 1911 at the age of 47 and was buried in the Jones Section of Mountain View Cemetery in Plot 04/010/0002.

The 1913 directory gives two addresses for the McCrossan family: “Granville, corner of Laurier” as well as 759 Bute so the new house must have been complete and occupied sometime in 1913.

We know from the 1912 fire insurance map for Shaughnessy that a post office stood for a year or so on the lot where the McCrossan family home would be built. The McCrossan family lived at 3937 Granville Street until 1919 when they moved to a house at 1311 The Crescent. By 1927 the McCrossan family was living at 4209 Osler Avenue. Thomas McCrossan died there of broncho-pneumonia on January 11, 1927 at the age of 92 and was buried in The Jones Section of Mountain View Cemetery in Plot 04/010/0004. Sometime in 1930 his wife Jane moved to 1498 Angus Drive, the home of their daughter Edith Mary McCrossan and their son-in-law Alexander Stewart Munro. (The two were married in Victoria on August 15, 1900). She died there of cancer on February 20, 1932 at the age of 90 and was buried in the Jones Section of Mountain View in Plot 04/010/0005.

The Second Owners – The Quagliotti-Romano Family
From 1920 to 1964, 3937 Granville Street was the home of the Quagliotti-Romano family. Hector Quagliotti-Romano was born in Victoria, BC on December 24, 1874 the son of John Quagliotti-Romano and Lucia Bonitti. Hector’s Italian-born father, John Quagliotti-Romano set up a string of trading posts from San Francisco to Lytton, eventually running stores, saloons and small hotels in Victoria, Yale, Lytton and Nanaimo. An article on page 29, 1956 Vancouver Province marking the death of Hector Quagliotti-Romano seems to intimate that John “played a part in setting out many boundaries and areas,” in BC and therefore, “as a result, “Quagliotti-Romanos were guests at many openings of the BC Legislature.” Up until 1956, at least, the one-time family store still stood in Hope. Prior to coming to Vancouver around 1914 Hector had tried his hand at prospecting and later music teaching.

Hector’s wife, Ella Dolan, was born in Seattle, Washington on September 27, 1883, the daughter of Irish immigrants James Dolan and Margaret Mahoney. Ella’s parents were pioneers in the movie theatre industry in Washington State. Prior to moving to 3937 Granville, the Quagliotti-Romano family lived in an apartment at 1, 1243 Thurlow. The Colonial Theatre was located at 603 Granville in what had been a commercial building—the W. C. Van Horne Block built in 1889-1890. It is believed that the building was converted into a theatre sometime in 1913 by the Hon. William J. Bowser and originally named the Kinemacolor Theatre. Hector Quagliotti-Romano bought the theatre in March 1914, named it The Colonial, and turned it into one of the most popular theatres in town. An article appearing just prior to the theatre’s demolition in the March 17, 1972 Province newspaper said it was “once Vancouver’s finest movie house.”

Off and on, three Quaglioti-Romano daughters are listed as living in the house with their parents: Margaret Jane, Therese, and Thea Quagliotti-Romano. Hector is known to not like having a concession stand inside the theatre, but he was not above establishing a candy store just outside the theatre. The 1933 directory lists Hector as the proprietor of Margaret Jane Candies at 605 Granville, obviously named after his daughter.

Margaret Jane Quagliotti-Romano traded one hyphenated surname for another in the mid-1940s when she married Douglas MacKay-Dunn, the manager of the Colonial Theatre. The MacKay-Dunns lived at 3377 Dieppe Street.

Hector Quagliotti-Romano died from a heart attack on May 28, 1956 at the age of 81 while working at his office in the Colonial Theatre. He had been suffering from mild diabetes mellitus. His body was entombed at Ocean View Cemetery. At the time of his death, Hector Quagliotti-Romano was one of the last independent movie theatre operators in Vancouver. His widow, Ella, continued on as the proprietor of The Colonial. She continued to live in the house until sometime in 1964 when she was checked in to St. Vincent’s Hospital. She died there on April 9, 1965 at the age of 81 and was entombed in The Abbey at Ocean View Cemetery. Ella was a life member of the Women’s Auxiliary of St. Paul’s Hospital, the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Canadian Motion Picture Pioneers. The Colonial Theatre became the property of Hector and Ella’s surviving daughters.

The MacKay-Dunn Family
The house stood empty for about a year until one of the daughters Margaret Jane MacKay-Dunn moved in with her husband Douglas and their children. Douglas MacKay-Dunn continued to manage The Colonial Theatre until its closure on March 23, 1968, The Quagliotti-Romano daughters sold the theatre to the city for $350,000 in December of the same year.

The MacKay-Dunn family continued to live at 3937 Granville Street until 1998 when they moved to an apartment at 1200-5850 Balsam Street.

Sometime around 1980 the street address of the house was changed from 3937 Granville Street to 1518 Laurier.

From 1999 to 2001 when the last of the Criss-Cross Directories was published the house was home to K. Dukowski. It is impossible to tell from the Criss-Cross Directory listings whether the Dukowski family rented or owned the house. I have heard, but have not been able to confirm, that for some time after 2001 the house served for a while as the home of the Venezuelan Consul General, or may have served as the Venezuelan Consulate. The rest you can read in the papers.

In an earlier iteration of this blog post I wrote "I have heard that the house was designed by renowned architect Samuel Maclure. You can read more about Maclure and the houses and buildings he built in Donald Luxton's fascinating book Building The West: Early Architects of British Columbia, pages 148-155 (in the First Edition), or click on this link:"

Thankfully, Donald Luxton read the post and cross-referenced the McCrossan name in a Point Grey building permit application database. He found that the architect was not Samuel MacLure at all. (There were many in the heritage community who doubted it was a MacLure house) Here is what Donald found:

The Building Permit Record
Point Grey Building Permit #265
Owner: McCrossan, J.
Architect: Jones & Aspell
Contractor: Stables, J.
Legal Description: DL 526 Block 31 Lot 5
Date: September 7 1912
Address: Laurier Avenue & Granville Street
Estimated Cost: $7000
Notes: Dwelling house

Also, Donald found a mention in the Province (1912-08-10 p.22) "Granville at Laurier - for Mrs. Thomas McCrossan; Jones & Aspell architects; James Stables contractor; Contract let for residence in Shaughnessy Heights"

So there you have it, a mystery solved. Thanks Don!

Here are some more newspaper articles on the Quagliotti-Romano family and the Colonial Theatre.

Colour photo of 1518 Laurier courtesy of


  1. Do you know the histories of other houses on Laurier Avenue?

    1. Hi there,

      No, this is the only house I have researched on Laurier.

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  3. Excellent information. I recently went to the Laurier house and took a bunch of pictures. It will be a shame to see it torn down. The cit of Vancouver is letting it's historical roots be demolished. Thank you.