The Lyons House, Carberry

Reid Dickie

Robert Fern Lyons was one of the early settlers in the Carberry area after emigrating west from Ontario in 1879. He purchased one of the first lots when the community of Carberry was established, on which he built a department store which he operated until 1888. Lyons owned 2700 acres of land around Carberry and raised crops and livestock. A Conservative, Lyons was elected to the Manitoba Legislature five times between 1892 and 1914.

What interests me most about Lyons is the house he built near Carberry. Though long abandoned and disintegrating quickly, the crumbling mansion retains enough of the detail to suggest its original magnificence. Located east of Carberry and Hwy #5, the house is visible among the overgrown trees from the highway, its brick construction standing out against the prairie fields.

Below is a picture of the side of the Lyons mansion and the additions it had back in its hey day along with the list of early owners. Thanks to Kelly at Carberry Plains Museum.

CARBERRY LYONS HOUSE IN ITS DAY

This picture (left) is what the house looks like today.

Built around 1895, the red and buff brick two-storey house combines elements of Italianate and Queen Anne architectural styles into a striking and luxurious pile. The first floor features buff brick, the second floor red brick, both laid in standard running bond. The commingling of both coloured bricks on the second floor is fluid and dynamic. The asymmetrical massing of the house, round segmental arches over the windows and the accent quoins are all Italianate elements that give the house a villa feel. Queen Anne style is represented in the two-storey rounded rooms, the bargeboard and fish scale shingles on the gable ends, the ornate three arched windows, which I believe went up the stairway of the house, and picturesque roofline. The former Lyons farm yard still has the wooden barn collapsing into itself and a rusting car parked at the rear of the house. The interior picture shows how far the place has fallen from grace. It’s a shambles.

More pictures in this update.

Click on the pic of R. F. Lyons at the top of this article to explore his house inside and out in a 2:55 video.

28 Comments

Filed under Carberry, Heritage Buildings, Houses, Manitoba Heritage, Pioneers

28 responses to “The Lyons House, Carberry

  1. JIM HENRY

    good grief..isnt this being preserved or restored ???

    • Hi Jim, Apparently there isn’t a lot of interest in preserving this old place. Structurally it’s too far gone for viable restoration. I suspect it will end up being bulldozed and the yard turned into farm land. The town of Carberry has an excellent and effective heritage committee (Lyons house is in RM, not town) that has saved and preserved many of the town’s heritage buildings of which there are dozens. The main street of Carberry is a heritage buff’s dream!

  2. Who own’s the property today?

  3. always loved that house and now I know a little more about it…thanks

  4. lisa

    Why did no family members continue to live in this house?

  5. I photographed this house in July of last year. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn we photographed it around the same time because the condition of the house is almost exactly the same as your photos. I also posted my photos on FaceBook fpr public viewing.

    • Thanks for your comment William, and for checking out my blog. Regarding the Carberry ruins, Jonathan Hale says: “A ruin is an expression of real death, and we find that moving. Some of the most passionate architecture in the world is ruins, where real death has come.”

      • “Though nothing can bring back the hour
        Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
        We will grieve not, rather find
        Strength in what remains behind…” William Wordsworth (Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood)

        By which I relate Wordsworth to houses such as Lyon’s House. As I age I have seen houses similar to Lyon’s before, so I can never claim to again see “…the hour of the splendour in the grass…”, but I can feel a thrill at the memory I have of seeing it the first time.

  6. cindy armstrong

    Is this a relative of Sterling lyons? I am a great grand daughter of the lyons family and they immigrated from grey county ontario I now live in neepawa had no Idea lyons lived in carberry.

  7. Duane Arndt

    Every time we drive by this house we wonder why nobody kept this place up and let it fall into such disrepair. Even from the highway you can see how ornate this house is and how much thought was put into its design. As you said though, this place is too far gone to bring it back to life. Being surrounded by high value potato crop land, the dirt that it sits on is way more valuable being used for agriculture then this house is to restore. The fact that it hasn’t been bulldozed already shows that the current owner doesn’t want to expedite the inevitable outcome. Most of the farmers in that area have lived there for generations as well and value their town’s history. Too bad this house didn’t get the attention it deserved 50 years ago. Like the grain elevators that once populated the prairie landscape, this house will someday vanish and only be a picture from our history also.

  8. Now I know the history of this old beautiful house. We have drove by it for nearly 50 years and never knew what has going on with this land.
    Darlene Gillies

  9. Laurie Bridle

    I would love an opportunity to try and bring this house back to its former glory. Could it possibly be purchased from the current owner along with a small piece of land?

    • Hi Laurie. That’s a big challenge due to its condition. I updated the previous post with some less flattering pictures of the place. Watch my video for interior condition. It’s bad. To pursue this contact the town office in Carberry 204-834-6600 and they will direct you to finding out the owner and status of the place. Please keep me apprised. Much luck.

  10. Sharon Coates

    It must have been a glorious house in it’s heyday! It would take a very, very wealthy person or foundation to restore it and who but a very few have that sort of money and the determination? Very story and photos, Reid, and gurgles up all those feelings of nostalgia.

  11. What became of the family? The business? This is a fascinating story!

    • Thanks Deli. Here’s what the Manitoba Historical Society says about Lyons’ fate: In 1888 Lyons sold his interest in the department store. He owned twenty-seven hundred acres of land in the Carberry District, on sixteen hundred of which he grew grain and raised high grade stock. For many years he was the largest operator on the stock exchange. He was a stockholder in the Lone Pine Gold Mining and Milling Company Limited and was vice-president of the corporation. A Conservative, he was elected to the Manitoba Legislature as member for Norfolk in 1892 and re-elected in 1899, 1903, 1907, and 1910 but defeated in 1914. He was a Methodist and a Mason. He died at Carberry on 29 December 1926.

  12. Brynn

    According to obituaries and census records, Lyons had at least three sons, Robert Ross, John Wesley Blake and Ivan Lorne. However, John Wesley Blake and Ivan Lorne moved to California and are listed in the census as single and living together in their late 40s, so perhaps they never married or had children. They died in the 70s and 80s. Lyons had a daughter, Jennet (Janet), named for her mother , whose married name I believe was Banning. She apparently died in 1986. Since the sons moved to the US and became naturalized citizens, that may explain why no care was given to Lyons property and legacy in MB. Google is a wonderful thing! -Brynn from Saskatoon.

  13. Ben

    I talked to a local in Carberry a few years ago & he said the house was owned by some old guy that lives in Elie & neither keeps it up nor is he willing to sell.
    Protection of heritage buildings in Manotoba is nothing short of a shame, this house should have heritage status & as such should long have been expropriated & been put to better use.

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