The Story Behind a Magnificent Mansion - Casa Mia

Vancouver approves plan to convert Casa Mia mansion into senior care home |  Urbanized

One of Vancouver's best-known mansions, built by liquor magnate and bootlegger George Reifel in 1932 on a 1 1/2 acres site overlooking the Fraser River is complete with lore, myth and a little bit of Disney.

Depite its 20,700 sq.ft size, the Spanish Revival-style home had a small number of bedrooms -  a main, 3 bedrooms for the Reifel kids and 8 servants quarters - because Reifel didn't like guests spending the night.

Vancouver approves plan to convert Casa Mia mansion into senior care home |  Urbanized

What bedrooms there were, however, were impressive. One of the playrooms featured characters from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, hand-painted by Disney Artists.

Paintings by Walt Disney company illustrators appear inside Casa Mia. Photo Courtesy of Heritage Van

The house, complete with a ballroom in the basement, hosted many grand parties. The Reifel kids recalled bumping into jazz legends like Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillepsie in the hallways. But the rumours of a secret underground tunnel to Rio Vista, another Southlands mansion, are apparently not true.

After Reifel died in 1958, Casa Mia was sold several times until it was finally purchased in 2010 by Maureen McIntosh and Lynn Aarvold of the Care Group for $10 million. 

A shot of the interior of Casa Mia.

Their original plan was to convert Casa Mia into a 62 bed seniors' care facility, add a two storey wing, and seek heritage designation. The proposal garnered opposition from residents concerned about the scale of the project, and the idea was shelved.

A bathroom fixture in Casa Mia.

Then in November 2017 a revamped proposal won unanimous support at a public hearing at city hall.

The approved application saw that the mansion was retained and an addition built to create a 90 bed facility - Vancouver Coastal Health funding 58 of them, while the remaining 32 are private-pay.

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