Leir House History
Hugh Charles Musgrove Leir was born in 1880 in Charlton Musgrove in Somerset, England. He came to Canada in 1902. In 1905 he built a small sawmill up Carmi Road to make flume lumber for irrigation water for newly planted orchards. The next mill was built by the river at south Penticton where he continued in business until retirement.
In 1914, in St. Saviour’s Church on Fariview Road, he married Joyce Lane, Hassell of Dearth, Kent, England, who came to Canada in 1913. Before and after the war years the Leir lived on Scott Road then moved to a house near the mill where the family grew to eight children.
In 1927 excavation started on the Leir House site among pines, sage, sunflowers and cactus, but was halted by the depression. In 1929 the family needed more space, and using lumber at the mill, for which there was no market, they began to build the house they had designed. Construction was supervised by Mr. Leir, using mill employees. The walls are solid 2x4s on end and the exterior, which was to have been stucco, was stone-faced when Mr. Leir discovered that one of the workers was a stone cutter. After the Leirs moved into the house, three more children were born.
As Mrs. Leir was always very interested in young people, the house became a gathering place for teens even before the organization of the first Teen Town in BC. She was known as the mother of the teen town movement. She passed away in 1955. Mr. Leir died in 1971.
In 1951 the Leir House and surrounding property was purchased from the family by the Penticton Regional Hospital and was used as a nurse’s residence until October 1977, when the hospital board was forced to close it for lack of occupancy. In November, the board put it up for sale and after a great deal of negotiation by the Penticton and District Community Arts Council, the City of Penticton purchased the Leir House in April of 1979. Alderman Rod Barrett, speaking on behalf of the authorizing bylaw, noted that there were two main reasons for the city to purchase the Leir House; firstly, to preserve an important city landmark, the home of a founding family and secondly, it offered an ideal opportunity to provide a cultural centre for the smaller arts and crafts groups in need of home base.
The Arts Council entered into a lease agreement with the city whereby the Arts Council would administer the Leir House as a cultural centre and sublet its facilities to smaller non-profit organizations mainly in the arts and cultural areas.
In September, 1979 MLA James Hewitt presented a $40, 000 cheque from the British Columbia Lottery Fund to the president of the Penticton and District Community Arts Council to be used for necessary renovations to the Leir House. The renovations began almost immediately along with a massive clean-up campaign.
On December 1, 1979, classical guitarist Selwyn Redivo presented the first musical recital to be held in the Leir House lounge. On December 4, 1979 the Leir House Office of the Penticton and District Community Arts Council opened with a paid secretary, Lori Cyra, to serve the community.
On December 7, 1979, the arts council entertained at the Leir House for the first time by hosting a wine and cheese party for its members and others associated with the Leir House Cultural Centre.
On May 24, 1980, the Leir House Cultural Centre was officially opened with MLA James Hewitt presiding at the ribbon cutting ceremony on the front steps. The ceremony was followed by a gala reception with hundreds of people touring the facilities. Six of the eleven children were able to attend, accompanied by many of their children and grandchildren. Following its first year of operation, the Leir House Cultural Centre proved to be a useful and fitting home for artists, musicians and many community organizations which enjoy its gracious atmosphere.
The Leir House Cultural Centre is located at:
220 Manor Park Ave
Penticton, BC V2A 2R2
Telephone (250) 492 – 7997