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Great Bones, Even Better Stories: Penticton house built for bootlegger once a popular tea house

Current owner of Riordan House up for sale shares memories and stories of 102-year-home
This is one of the dining area of the 102-year-old Riordan House in downtown Penticton that is up for sale. The home was built for a prominent businessman and reputed bootlegger. (Remax photo)

Johnna Ortiz, the current owner of the Riordan House up for sale said her family’s dream came true when they bought the heritage home in 1991.

The family fell in love with the interior and planned to make it their home but its history had other plans for them.

“Many people kept returning because they thought it was still the Tiffen Tea House, so mom and dad ended up operating a very successful B&B for 16 years before they retired,” Ortiz told the Western News. The house has also been a doctor’s office as well as another small restaurant.

“The exterior does not do the house justice, as the interior is really where one can appreciate the workmanship that is incredibly beautiful and fine,” said Ortiz. The home is located on the northwest corner of Winnipeg Street and Eckhardt Avenue.

Living room of Riordan House built in 1921 for a prominent hotel owner and reputed bootlegger. (Remax)

All the wood materials were brought from Nova Scotia which includes fir and oak, with the designed flooring made from clear maple. Hand-beveled mirrors are prominent throughout the interior, which has all its original hardware. There are stained glass and leaded windows throughout.

The specially-made front door is so finely balanced it can be closed with one finger even though it’s more than 100-years old, said Ortiz.

The Riordan House, a three-bedroom, four-bath home built in 1921 is listed for $1.299 million. But unlike Bogner’s, the Riordan House is a designated heritage site so it can’t be torn down.

The home also carries a fascinating past including about the original owner Dave Riordan – a prominent businessman who owned the then BC Motel which later became Slacks. He was also a reputed bootlegger.

It is rumoured that liquor was hidden in the basement of the Riordan house during Prohibition.

Riordan House

The richly detailed interior, which is virtually in its original condition, is a reflection of the social prominence and personality of its original owner and his wife.

The home’s interior is nothing short of stunning, with library ceilings, wood inlay and built-ins and fireplaces.

The pictures of the interior and the listing description can be found here.

It was also home to the popular Tiffen Tea House which operated in the 80s.

Ortiz says they have many rich, heartfelt memories from the home that they will carry with them when it sells.

“Memories of family holidays with over 20 family members around the dining table, cousins decorating the Christmas tree according to their height, chocolate eggs and bunnies stuck in trees. There have been births, marriages, deaths, and many of interesting guests from all over the world who stayed at the B&B,” said Ortiz.

“What I will profoundly miss is the privilege of wandering throughout, appreciating the loving workmanship that is art in this home. A bygone era where materials, design, craftsman and workmanship were pride of place.”

In 2021, the City of Penticton granted the home heritage status. Bogner’s, which was built in 1915 and was the home of one of Penticton’s first doctors, did not have heritage status, paving way for its eventual demolition to be replaced with an office building.

READ MORE: Penticton heritage home once owned by Prohibition-era bootlegger up for sale

Monique Tamminga

About the Author: Monique Tamminga

Monique brings 20 years of award-winning journalism experience to the role of editor at the Penticton Western News. Of those years, 17 were spent working as a senior reporter and acting editor with the Langley Advance Times.
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