New Westminster Heritage Restorations

Dubbed the “Royal City” – since the New Westminster name came from Queen Victoria’s love of Westminster in London – the New Westminster area has strong appeal for many prospective residents.  Heritage homes are in abundance in historic neighbourhoods like Queens Park, Sapperton, Downtown and Moody Park. After a few decades of restoration and city by-laws protecting heritage properties, homes like this  Queen’s Park treasure have been lovingly restored.

New Westminster Heritage Preservation Society - Maria Keary Cottages

Maria Keary Cottages restoration on Agnes St. nears completion in 2010 – photo: Paul Fuoco

2010 – Maria Keary Cottages 

These twin cottages on Agnes Street have undergone extreme makeovers and are due to be completed.

Eric Pattison – the architect for the project – says, “The real architectural challenge was to make sure the houses still had their traditional street appearance intact.”

The twin cottages had been turned into rental properties and undergone extensive renovations over the years. Interestingly, the cottage on the left (307 Carnarvon) was once owned by Mandrake the Magician, who removed   removed all the historic exterior details in the 1950s. It later became a rental property and fell into such rough shape, it was barely recognizable.The condition of 305 Carnarvon had fared slightly better. The elderly lady who owned the property donated it to Westcoast Genesis Society, a non-profit charitable organization who will operate the facility.

The houses will be used as a transition to independent living facility and will be sponsored by B.C. Housing under the provincial homelessness initiative. Both lots will be joined together by a two-storey addition. The front façade will be restored to the original 1887 appearance, and the interior will include 15 beds for adults with fetal alcohol spectrum syndrome and 20 beds for homeless individuals. There will also be an office, teaching room, lounge, exercise room and outside will be a Victorian garden.

New Westminster Heritage Preservation Society - Boughen House2009 – The Emery C. Jones House

You can’t be blamed if you barely noticed the house at 239 Sixth Avenue in years past.Stuccoed over in the 1950s, it was a pale shadow of its former grandeur. The fact that it was designed by one of New Westminster’s foremost architects before World War I, Edmund John (E.J.) Boughen, is even more reason to celebrate its recent transformation.

The house at 239 Sixth Avenue has undergone a fairly extensive restoration over the last three years.

In 2009, the last of the stucco was removed, the old siding restored (and new siding added wherenecessary), decorative details returned, and a beautiful heritage paint job completed. Using old photographs as a guide, the owners have completed their restoration of this beautiful Arts and Crafts-style home to its original grand exterior.

 The house was built in 1913 by Boughen, who was born in London, England in 1874, but moved to Canada, settling in the Royal City in 1911.He relocated to Vancouver near the end of World War I, but before he left, his commissions included some of the finest residential designs of that time (his own home, E-Dee-Nie at Fourth Avenue and Oak Street,is one of Queen’s Park’s most significant Arts and Crafts-style homes).

Owners Ross Chilton and Annette Vey-Chilton have done their homework on the house, researching its past and using old photos as their reference point.“The first owner, Emery C. Jones, was a dentist and it was one of those statement houses because it’s quite grand in size and structure” says Ross.

The Jones family lived in the house from 1914 to1941. Its second owner, Arthur M. Gee, a mental health director at Woodlands, who owned the house until 1958.

During the 1980s, it went through a rental period and was a party house. In fact, Chilton says he still has a sign that says “The Ranch” from that era.

Some renovations were made over the years, but a lot of the original elements have remained, including the radiators, a fireplace, which has never been painted,and the kitchen cabinet doors.Even the original pipes for heating are still functional,

although a few have been replaced. The basement contains a room where coal, and then wood chips were once stored, and a pulley system which goes up to the kitchen.

Ross adds, “You look at this house and the materials were probably cut from trees around here. And here it is, all these years later – it’s still a very solid home. It has character and a sense of lives lived. And history. And that’s important to us.

2010 – H.T. Kirk House, 303 Third Avenue

New Westminster Heritage Preservation Society - Kirk House

Remember the old dance studio/ballet academy at 303 Third Avenue (at Third Street)? It sat empty for a few years, but you may have noticed a buzz of activity around the old grand dame lately. In what must be the good news heritage story of the year, the ballet academy is about to dance to a new heritage tune. New owners Jennifer Crews and Lee Cowley definitely have earned a big thumb’s-up for their efforts.

The New West residents bought the house in January 2009 and have just begun the massive task of updating and restoring the old Herbert Thomas (H.T.) Kirk House. Kirk was a hardware merchant who later moved to 321 Fourth Avenue in 1908 (that house is named “Eldora” after the Kirks’ daughters, Elsie and Dora).

The Kirk House at 303 Third Avenue was not the firsthouse on this corner— a small Victorian cottage from the 1890s was there until the Kirks built their impressive new home circa 1906. The cottage was moved up the block where it still stands at 228 Third Street, missing its wonderful shingling and Victorian detail and now covered in stucco.

The Kirk house became known as the place for future dancers to learn their steps after 1929, when Josephine Slater bought the house. She had moved from Vancouver where she ran the Lyndon Studio of Dancing. The house became known as the Slater Dancing School for many years, and many great dancers were trained there, including Norbert Vesak, who went on to be a choreographer for the Metropolitan Opera ballet.

The house later became home to the Boswell Dance Academy. New owners Jennifer and Lee have started the massive restoration of the home. It was missing its main staircase (removed for an office), several interior walls and pocket doors (opened up for the dance floor ), and many beautiful windows, including an oval leaded-glass window that looked into its front main hallway, which got tossed into the garbage when the home was renovated years ago.

Crews says they are looking at reproducing the window. They plan to put everything (within reason) back that’s missing, and luckily had many original details left inside (mouldings, picture and plate rails, baseboards, two beautiful ornate fireplaces, some light fixtures, and the original windows in the circular porch that were left in place when itwas filled in and vinyl siding put on the exterior). They are also cautiously optimistic the original porch columns are still intact but hidden when the porch was filled in.

The house is about 7,000 square feet, so it’s got more than enough room. The kitchen addition at the back of the house will be retained and has been gutted to make way for a new kitchen with a laundry room upstairs.The missing staircase is a challenge, as there seem to be no original pictures that can guide them on its reconstruction. But Geoff Lillico, an expert finishing carpenter, joiner and furniture maker who is handling much of the woodwork in the house, is confident the staircase can be reproduced, using the few clues that remain of its appearance (luckily, the upstairs landing is still intact).

Wherever possible, plaster walls are being kept and repaired. And new reproduction windows and doors will be made to replace the majority of originals that were ripped out decades ago.

“We are hoping to move in by August of this year,” Jennifer says, adding that their great 1930s house on Fourth Street near St. George,with original plaster walls, coved ceilings, and other original details, will be going on the market this spring. “We’re really going to miss it! “ she says.

But making the Kirk House their new home should be a nice replacement.

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