Friday, March 22, 2013

Death of a Nanny

This home is at 3689 Selkirk in Shaughnessy. The photo was taken in 1922 by Leonard Frank.

Another angle of the same house and taken at the same time by the same photographer.
3690 Cypress. Taken in 1923 by Frank Leonard.

Frank Leonard took this photo of 1488 West 32nd in 1923.

Janet Kennedy Smith was born on June 25, 1902 in Perth, Scotland. At the age of 11, Janet finished school and got a certificate to be a nursemaid. In January 1923, Janet was hired by Doreen and Frederick Lefevre Baker. The Bakers were a Vancouver couple living in Kensington. F.L. was in the import business and his dealings took him to Paris before the family - including Janet - came home to Vancouver. Smith was enticed by the promise of a ticket home and a monthly salary of $30.
Another photo taken by Frank Leonard in 1923. It is of the roof of the above home on West 32nd. James A. Benzies resided here at the time.
Yet another look at the home of James A. Benzies.
Frank Leonard took this photo of 5007 Angus Drive in 1925.
This is a 1925 photo of Glen Brae, aka Tait House. It was taken by Frank Leonard. At one time, this was home to the Klu Klux Klan. I have written on 1690 Matthews Street before.

The Bakers, along with the Scottish nursemaid, moved into a house in the West End. This location gave Smith easy access to Stanley Park and she would often take the baby for strolls through the park. Janet also found it easy to meet members of Vancouver's bachelor set and soon developed relationships that ranged from flirtatious to serious.

Janet had plans to move back to England but that didn't stop her associations. According to her diary, she felt guilty about leading men on and was concerned about remaining a respectable girl.

In May of 1924, the Bakers moved from the West End to Shaughnessy. 

Another 1925 photo of Glen Brae taken by Frank Leonard.
The date on this photo of 1675 Angus Drive is February 7, 1923 and Frank Leonard is credited with taking it.
This is how 1499 Angus Drive looked in 1923 when Frank Leonard took this picture.
1790 Angus Drive in 1920, taken by Frank Leonard.

It was on the morning of July 26, 1924 that Janet Smith's body was found in the basement of the Baker home. There was a bullet wound in her temple and a revolver lay near her outstretched hand. There was a suspicious burn on her arm and a stain on her finger. 

A 25-year-old houseboy by the name of Wong Foon Sing had found the body of the dead nanny after hearing a noise similar to a car backfiring. The police decided that she had committed suicide and the Vancouver Coroner - after a hasty inquest - reported that Janet Smith had suffered 'a self-inflicted but accidental death.'

You may think that that is the end of it. But is it really? I will tell you more about this twisted tale on Monday.

 Taken by Frank Leonard in 1923, this is a photo of the home of Hugh McLean and H.R. MacMillan at 1337 Balflour Street.
Another photo of the same house taken in August of 1925 by Frank Leonard.
A 1920 photo of Boulevard homes in Shaughnessy. Taken by Frank Leonard.
On July 21, 1923, Frank Leonard took this photo of the Shaughnessy Heights Golf Course.

I have to thank the Vancouver Public Library archives for the photos and to the Directory of Canadian Biography Online for the information on Janet Smith.

Did you forget that all three of my Kindle titles are free through Monday? Check out the covers beside here to find the right link and get your copy.

I hope you find the beauty around you.
Shaughnessy Heights Golf Course again. Taken by Frank Leonard on July 21, 1923.
The clubhouse on the Shaugness Heights Golf Course. July 21, 1923 by Frank Leonard.
R. Broadbridge took this photo in 1925 on Shaughnessy Homes.
In January of 1921, Dominion Photo Co takes this picture of the Shaugnessy Military Hospital at 4325 Willow Street.

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  1. I did not know they had a KKK in Canada. I guess I thought prejudices were only from the USA.

  2. The KKK also figures in this story. Tune in Monday for more information.

    As for Glen Brae, it is now a hospice for children that is run by the Vancouver Canucks hockey team.

  3. The Frank Leonard photo of 5007 Angus is mislabelled. The house in the photo is substantially different in style and appearance compared to the house I lived in for 25 years, at 5007 Angus. My former home survives to this day.

  4. Interesting Derek. I confirmed that the Vancouver Public Library archives labelled it as 5007 Angus and they probably got it from the estate of Frank Leonard. Which home is it, do you know?

  5. I believe the Frank Leornard photo of 5007 Angus shows the house that once stood at 5007 Marguerite Street.

    1. Thank you Derek. After five years of writing this blog, one thing I've learned is that the information I receive on history isn't always right.

  6. You are most welcome Karen. History is indeed a work in progress. It is remarkable how interesting Vancouver's history is, and yet how little current residents know of the city's past. Your blog does sterling service to illuminate some historical aspects that have receded into the mists of time. The Dominion Photo Company photo of the first Shaughnessy Veterans' Hospital is labelled almost correctly, but was located on Heather Street at 33rd. The building was built in 1912 as a boys school, then requisitioned as a military hospital from 1918 to 1920. After that, the RCMP took over the building as the headquarters of E Division, and was known as Fairmont Barracks. Its future remains in question now that the RCMP HQ has moved to Surrey. Keep up the good work.

    1. thank you again for the corrections and information. And thank you for the compliments. I am by no means a historical expert - I just relate what I find.

    2. As do most historians Karen. I enjoyed your references to Allan Morley's history of Vancouver. I have a copy of his book. As it happens, my mom was his neighbour when she first came to Vancouver in the 1950s. He was quite a character, and asked my mom to be his ears should anyone knock on his door; he was deaf from his years as a miner. All the best with your writing.

    3. Interesting. My latest series is based on writings in his book. I am working on my motivational speaking and getting together a life coaching/mentoring business right now.

  7. I'm curious about the history of 1790 Angus. Perhaps I missed its details in a previous posting

    1. Hi Norman,

      This series is all on the murder of Janet Smith. I don't know if I have ever written on the history of 1790 Angus.


  8. Hi Karen,

    Do you know if the diary was published or is available to be seen/read?


    Mark Haney

    1. Hi Mark, no I don't know if that diary was ever published.