Gordon Villa was built around 1890, and here it is in that same year. Major Matthews added a note to the photograph saying “Photograph shows Mr. John Connon seated on the steps, Miss Mary Connon (Stuart) standing in front of a door and the spire of the Baptist Church”. The house faced the Cambie Street Grounds (today a huge surface parking lot, waiting for a decision on a new Art Gallery).
From the street directory it looks as if the house was very new (if the 1890 attribution for the picture is correct). It doesn’t appear in the 1890 street listing, but J Cannon (sic) is there in 1891 with Miss M Connon, and in 1892 there’s a Mary Connow (music teacher) and John Connon, carpenter. John and Mary Connon emigrated in 1889 from Scotland when they were both aged 60, we assume their family came with them, although perhaps only Mary and William initially. We can guess where Gordon Villa got its name: Mary Connon was originally Mary Gordon, and John and Mary had married in 1862 in Banchory, Devenick, Kincardine, Scotland. They had a daughter, Margaret, who was born in 1863 and who died in New Westminster in 1938. A son, John, was born in 1865; another daughter, Elspet was christened in 1866 (she was called Elspeth when she died in Victoria in 1933), and a son, Gordon in 1871. The Archives have a picture of John Connon chopping a tree stump on his property on his Westminster Road (Kingsway) property around 1898. A newspaper reference to Mr Connon’s love of Burns poetry would seem to match his son’s preference for Scottish dress while clearing stumps.
Another daughter, Mary, was born in 1868 and married in 1893 to James Duff Stuart. She’s presumably who is described as ‘standing in front of the door’, and she was the music teacher in 1891. Like her siblings she was born in Aberdeenshire, while James had been born in Dufftown, Banff, Scotland, and he was aged 26, two years older than Mary. We’ve come across Mr Stuart before: he was co-owner of the Clarke and Stuart bookstore. Mary and James had at least one son, also called James, who enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps in 1915 and died in 1917 in France. They also had two daughters, Kathleen and Isabel. Mary was 87 when she died in 1956
In 1901 the family were living in Richmond and the only child with them was their 28-year-old son, William (who was aged 15 in the 1891 census). John was described as a rancher; William Gordon Connon was married in 1901 aged 25, and died aged 55 (where curiously he was described as single).
Today the site is part of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, the first project designed by the Montreal-based architectural partnership Affleck, Desbarats, Dimakopoulos, Lebensold, Sise which opened in July, 1959.
Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu P638