Thomas Breen was the son of Mary Ramsden and John Breen. He spent his childhood in an orphanage. When he reached age 12 he was considered too old to stay in the institution and he was adopted by a Canadian couple. When he finally reached his destination there was no one to meet him, but the Acton Vale train station master, Mr. Aurele Talbot, took this young englishman under his wing and Thomas would begin life in his new country at the home of Aurele's parents in St-Eusebe de Stanfold.
In 1908 Thomas married Eugenie, the youngest daughter of the Talbot family, in Princeville Quebec. They will have nine children. Before Thomas arrived in St-Bruno-de-Guigues he had a blacksmith shop in Stanfold. Thomas was a born business man, throughout his life he owned numerous business including a cheese box factory, blacksmith shop, saw mill, a lumber camp, and he also sold farm machinery.
This was a brief look at a family that has few members in Canada but that really had an impact on our small town. What courage and tenacity, for an orphan boy, to come to this country and to do so well. Thomas was part of a breed of men that persevered and had faith in the future.
Although The Breen house is over 100 years old it's method of construction is as good as today's or better. Workmanship and attention paid to details is very evident. This house is very much of the "Edwardian" style which make's it less exuberant than the Victorian style. Thus the house is more classic in it's architecture and the choice of ornaments. What we mean when we say "Edwardian" is not a style that we mean but of a type of house at a precise time in history. The "Edwardian" era is generally associated with the beginning of the middle class and the growing importance of their wealth.
Why this choice in an area of colonisation? By taking a closer look we can see in the architecture Thomas's roots in his english origine and his attachement to his family of adoption. Thomas called on the services of reputed architect Louis Caron, senior. Mr. Caron designed many building in the Arthabaska region including prime minister Wilfrid Laurier's residence with which we can find many similarities. The main architectural elements of the Breen house are comprised of the following:
- A two story house with cedar siding.
- Carved wooden ornaments above the windows and on the cornices such as brackets and denticle cornices.
- A false mansard roof with a false attic which hides a flat roof. The roof is covered with embossed sheet metal.
- The arched roof openings emphasize the mansard-like appearance of the roof.
- The residence rest on a cement basement, two feet thick constructed of cement and rocks.
- On the south face a bow window lets in lots of sunshine.
- All the casement are original with their shutters and colored glass in blue and red. These are in groups of four, surmounted by wooden denticle ornaments.
- Two wooden glassed doors form the main entrance with a skylight above them. There is an extruded, glassed four face balcony support above the skylight. The balcony has round guard posts.
- Two sides of the house have a veranda and also have round guard posts but these have carved acorn disigns (oak is the predominent tree in the garden).
- The single story rectangular annex has a sloping roof.
- From the entrance hall, one faces a huge staircase and the visitor will get a hint of the architecture and the care for detail of the owner.
- The floor layout is unusual as you can go from room to room without using any long passageway.
- All the rooms have embossed sheet metal ceilings, rather new method at the time.
- Most of the flooring is hardwood.
- All the wood finishing is either BC fir or Douglas pine and was also considered a new trend at the time.
- The walls are covered with cardboard fibre panelling and held in place with molded wooden boards.
Thomas's Breen's residence shows the same determination as that of the man. It overcomes time and is well rooted to survive all the changes in seasons it has endured. This house in the center of St-Bruno-de-Guigues with it's special architecture, for this area, is the first hint of the richness of the heritage that the visitor will discover. You will be received by a family, their history, their family and social roots, when you take that first step on the stone sidewalk leading to the house. Come to Guigues, it will be with great pleasure that we will welcome you and talk about the way it was in those days, so long ago...
The Breen estate is a unique heritage place due to it's diversity and authentic content. It is not only a special architectural site but also a richness in it's furnishings and documents. Visitors will feel part of the family as they go about the house and see the importance and value given to this theme by the family and the feeling that we should all have a place called home. The overall effect of a visit to this home, seem's to be the importance in ones life, of our roots, from were-ever that may be.
Master bedroom furniture
Theses pieces date from the 1880's and are of the Eastlake style. Typical of a Victorian bedroom there are three pieces: the bed, chest of drawers with mirror, wash basin (also called chiffonnier). This furniture is 90% plated, stylised and rich looking. The framing is made of mahagony and birch. They are laminated mainly wityh birch and plated with mahagony. African mahagony (sapelli) was used for the sculptured parts. These pieces are very well made and of high quality.
Bed, chest of drawers, wash basin.
Wood : Mahagony, the unseen parts are of elm and birch
Sculptured appliques : Mahagony and birch
Plating : Mahagony and other woods
Framing : Mahagony and birch laminates
Color : stained half brown mahagony and half europeen birch
Finish : Polished brass
Hardware : Polished brass
Tops of the chest of drawers and wash basin : White marble
The mirror have angled edges;
From the Columbia Gramophone Co. Inc. New York, this is the model Viva Tonal manufactured in 1925. Only the middle class and the rich could afford such a luxurious piece of furniture. The actual phonograph is not that big, but it is in a high quality, large piece of furniture.
Very well made this piece is finished in nice mix of mahagony with sober decorations, a few small decorative appliques, some exotic wood inserts and inside the cabinet, small birch inlays.
Wood : Mahagony and birch
Plating : Curled mahagony
Framing : Laminated birch
Interior : Birch plating
Color : Dark red mahagony
Finish : Very shiny, slightly colored oil based varnish
Appliques : Oil based paint
This console is among the first that allowed subscribers to talk with each other and is known as a telephone exchange. Of solid oak construction from the 1920's.
Wood : Solid oak (mailed-zebra paterns)
Color : Golden oak
Finish : Very glossy, amber lacquer varnish
The value of the Breen estate can also be appreciated by the landscaping. The restoration of the garden was carried out keeping them authentic and also with continuity. Eva Breen's garden has many types of plants, flowers and trees. In spring time, the large flowering apple trees and the tulip eds are beautiful to behold. A certain quiet and serenity is created by the big oak trees. The fragrance and colors in the yard will surely be appreciated by visitors.
The principal elements in the garden and grounds are:
- Over 20 species of shrubs and trees including the more than 100 year old oaks
- More than 2000 perennials plants
- Over 1800 daffodil and tulip bulbs make a magnificent display of color in the spring
- Pathways of flat stones
- It's hot beds and vegetable garden