House H – Herbert R. Davidson House

Herbert R. Davidson House

by Sheilah Harris

This handsome 1910 Arts and Crafts home was built for Herbert R. Davidson,  manager of the Bank of Commerce. In 1994, when the house was given official  heritage designation, the design was credited to the architectural firm of F.G.  Gardiner and A.L. Mercer. But after the homeowner did some research of his  own, he discovered that Mercer didn’t arrive in B.C. until the home’s water  connection had already been made (March of 1910), whereas the Gardiner  brothers had arrived together in B.C. in early 1909. Thus, with the blessing of B.C.  Heritage expert Don Luxton, it was agreed that 218 Queen’s Avenue was designed  by Gardiner and Gardiner. It was also the firm’s last house, as afterward one  brother formed a new partnership in Vancouver and the two never designed a  house jointly again. 

The exterior is shingle-sided with two front cross-gables with Tudor board trim. A paint scheme of brown with cream trim and dark green sash is period  appropriate. The impressive fir front door is original. 

When the new homeowners purchased the home in 1979, they confronted shag  carpet, white-painted woodwork, acoustic ceiling tiles, virtually no original  lighting, and many original windows gone. 

Dominated by dark-stained woodwork, the living hall includesseven-foot-high  wainscoting, chamfered posts, and a staircase incised with a spade-headed arrow  motif, all typical of the Arts and Crafts interiors. It is illuminated by a large first  floor window and a band of clerestory windows. The only original light fixtures are  on either side of the fireplace. In 1972, a previous owner dropped the ceiling to  single-story height in order to build additional second-floor bedrooms for their  seven children. This destroyed the upper railing and coffered ceiling, which the  current owner has rebuilt. He also matched the glass panels in the clerestory  windows to use in the antique ceiling fixture. All the woodwork, except for the  paneling on the underside of the stairs, has been stripped and stained. The 19- foot-high room with its coffered ceiling, oversized light fixture and natural stained  woodwork is now true to how the hall would have looked in 1910.

The parlour retains the 1940’s addition of wall moldings and window valance.  Leaded French doors installed at that time have been removed and the opening  widened to its original design. 

In the library, all the wood paneling has been replaced. Both the ceiling light and  fireplace mantel were found in the woodpile and have been restored. 

Of the windows in the dining room, only one is original – the little niche window,  which had been hidden behind drywall. A previous owner removed the original  built-in buffet and drywalled behind it, likely to make space for their own buffet hutch. Windows on either side had been removed and drywalled over, too. The  present owner revealed the art glass window, replaced the ones next to it, and  

created a buffet based on one in a neighbouring house of the same style and  vintage. The large window overlooking the garden was a three-sectioned ‘50’s plate glass window when the present owner took possession. When he removed  it, ghosts of studsshowed where the original set of four windows had been, guiding him in building the reproduction you see now. The rest of the woodwork,  except the coffered ceiling, was stripped and stained. All the light fixtures are  period appropriate. 

In the kitchen, the original 10-foot-high ceiling was restored, a new oak floor  replaced the unsalvageable original fir, and a copy of the beautiful hall window  was made to replace a contemporary version installed by the previous owner. Changed from the 1910 floor plan: the breakfast area was originally the kitchen, and the current kitchen is where the butler’s pantry had been. The cabinets are  modelled on the ones that had been in the pantry, as remembered by a woman  who lived in the house as a girl. The homeowner has only recently needed to  replace the 1958 Frigidaire stove he inherited with the house and was a period  gem. The “annunciator” – the small, glass-fronted wooden box with six stations – told the house servants which bell was being rung. 

This astonishingly well-preserved and beautifully appointed home is a testament  to the homeowner’srestoration and research skills. His dedication to keeping the  past alive and relevant for future generations is a gift to all who value these historic treasures.