Shaughnessy, which lies between West 16th and 41st avenues, and between Oak Street and East Boulevard, was the brainchild of the Canadian Pacific Railway, which wanted to sell off some of the 6,280 acres it had been granted in return for making Granville Townsite (modern downtown Vancouver) the western terminus of its transcontinental railway line. The subdivision, according to CPR executive Richard Marpole, was to be the “Nob Hill of Vancouver,” a reference to a posh residential district of San Francisco.
Work on First Shaughnessy, 423 acres between West 16th Avenue and King Edward Avenue, began in September 1907. An army of workers cleared the forest, and built streets and sidewalks and installed electrical lines, sewers and water lines—services much of Vancouver didn’t have at the time. The first lots sold for $450 to $800.
The subdivision grew south in 1912 with the creation of Second Shaughnessy, another approximately 400 acres between King Edward Ave. and West 33rd Ave. The extension included a 113-acre private golf course on land now occupied by VanDusen Garden.
Following the First World War, the addition of Third Shaughnessy pushed the subdivision all the way south to West 41st Avenue.
To this day, Shaughnessy remains a neighbourhood of single-family homes, many of them 5,000 - to 10,000-square-foot mansions built prior to the Second World War, on large, landscaped lots. There’s a fringe of apartments on Oak Street, and a tiny cluster of shops at the corner of 41st Avenue and Granville Street, but no commercial buildings in the heart of Shaughnessy.
In 2009, a proposal by a developer to erect 15 townhouses on the corner of Granville Street and McRae Avenue, Shaughnessy’s northern “gateway” generated a storm of protest from Shaughnessy residents. Members of the Shaughnessy Heights Property Owners Association organized a campaign that saw dozens of protest signs erected on lawns throughout the neighbourhood.
Despite the protest, the development went ahead. Today, the Georgian-style condos, ranging in size from 1,350 to 3,500 square feet, start at $1.8 million.