Peru’s residence: authenticity on Island Park

| January 5, 2014 | 0 Comments
The Peruvian Ambassador’s stately residence on Island Park Drive.

The Peruvian Ambassador’s stately residence on Island Park Drive.

It is impossible to meander along Island Park Drive without noticing the impressive brick and half-timbered residence of Peruvian Ambassador Jose Antonio Bellina. Situated on a large corner lot, the home was built in 1928 for Stafford Kirkpatrick and designed by leading Ottawa architect Werner Edgar Noffke, the man whose landmark buildings include the Korean ambassador’s residence in Rockcliffe and the Medical Arts building on Metcalfe Street. He designed the home in the popular Tudor-Gothic style of the day with multi-faceted windows, a crenellated parapet, twisted chimney pots and a heavy wooden door recessed in a stone archway.

José Antonio Bellina and his wife, Rosa Garcia Rosell

José Antonio Bellina and his wife, Rosa Garcia Rosell

The house has had an interesting past. In 1940, a group of more than 20 young schoolchildren left England with their teacher, looking for a haven away from Nazi bombing and set off for Ottawa with the promise of a roof over their heads. Sadly, when they got here, that promise had evaporated and the children and their teacher were homeless. A group of influential Ottawans found temporary accommodation until the empty Kirkpatrick house was secured for them. Their presence during the war years was recorded by Malak Karsh in a well-known picture of the children leaning over the banister of the sweeping staircase.
“This story brings energy to the house,” says the ambassador’s wife, Rosa.
The residence was purchased by the government of Peru not long after the war and the Karsh photograph has a place of honour at the bottom of the stairs in the front hall. Over the years, several former students have come back to visit. With eight bedrooms, five for family and three for staff these days, there was always lots of room for everyone.

Peruvian art and furnishings are evident throughout the home.

Peruvian art and furnishings are evident throughout the home.

Once through the impressive front door, visitors find a house built along a long, wide hallway. To the right, a living room is dominated by a stately stone fireplace. It leads into a small piano room, once used as a glass-enclosed sunroom.
To the left of the front entrance sits a small, pretty sitting room and an oak-panelled den surrounded by bookcases. The ambassador has decorated it with the many medals he has received over the years during postings in Switzerland, New York and Washington and many naval mementoes, all related to his naval family. He, too, has a naval distinction of sorts, in that he served as Peru’s vice-minister of defence.
A bar disguised as a globe of the world  opens to show off glasses and a variety of bottles containing pisco, the grape brandy produced in Peru and Chile. This is where the ambassador retreats to read, one of his pastimes, along with painting and attending classical and, particularly, rock concerts.

Mr. Bellina’s study, where he’s been known to have a cigar or two.

Mr. Bellina’s study, where he’s been known to have a cigar or two.

The dining room is also panelled and is dominated by a Peruvian mirror. This room has a photograph of the English children eating their lunch in that room. The photo demonstrates the authenticity of the house — it looks the same as it did more than 70 years ago. Most of the interior rooms have oak doors with leaded glass, mirroring the windows.

The dining room is panelled and dominated by a Peruvian mirror.

The dining room is panelled and dominated by a Peruvian mirror.

Much of the art is from the ambassador’s own collection. Some of the pieces are modern, but there are lovely examples of native art as well. A charming handmade wooden crèche is typical of early native arts of Ayacucho in the Peruvian highlands, Ambassador Bellina explains. A Madonna and Child are clothed in typical colourful Peruvian dress.

A sitting room shows off the leaded windows.

A sitting room shows off the leaded windows.

In a frame, behind glass, hangs a tiny, 800-year-old poncho in wonderful condition. It was recently handed over to the ambassador by a Peruvian in Canada who felt guilty about taking it out of his home country, a move that is actually against the law. Around the home, fine Peruvian silver vases hold freshly cut flowers.

The globe that doubles as a bar.

The globe that doubles as a bar.

The ambassador and his wife have a Peruvian chef and pride themselves on serving the specialties of their country, most spiced with aji amarillo peppers, native to Peru. Ceviche, raw fish marinated in citrus juice, is a popular item at the residence along with causa, a traditional dish of mashed yellow potatoes, key lime, chili and almost any variety of fish. The name comes from the War of the Pacific, (1879-1883) in which a united Peru and Bolivia fought against Chile. Causa is said to represent the efforts of the women to gather food for the “cause.”
Ambassador Bellina and his wife are happy in Ottawa.
“I love it here,” Mrs. Garcia Rosell says, and adds that roaming around Westboro is one of her pleasures. She feels at home in Canada, she says, because she attended a Canadian school in Lima for 12 years.

Madonna and Child are dressed in traditional Peruvian clothing.

Madonna and Child are dressed in traditional Peruvian clothing.

The Bellinas may have a comfortable home in Canada, but they have created the warmth of Peru in a cold climate.

Margo Roston is Diplomat’s culture editor.

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Margo Roston is Diplomat’s culture editor.

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