House K – The George and Annie Brymner House (1889)

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Breeze-Hurst – a Homes Tour Preview

Photo: Barbara Tili

A gracious home

In its 134-years, Breeze-Hurst (the George and Annie Brymner House) has been many things: the first a grand house for 60 years, an apartment building for the next 40; and finally, in the most recent 30-plus years, it has been slowly, painstakingly restored to its original glory, thanks to the stewardship of several of its more recent owners.

In 1889, the Brymners commissioned prominent New Westminster architect G. W. Grant to build Breeze-Hurst for $3,000. Brymner had come to New Westminster to open the first West Coast branch of the Bank of Montreal.

Photo: Paul Fuoco
Photo: Barbara Tili

The original concrete and wrought iron fence which still surrounds the property today was constructed by Westminster Ironworks. In the 1900s, the Brymners added a north wing to accommodate a billiard room and a principal bedroom suite. An octagonal conservatory was also added on the south side overlooking what was their tennis lawn.

After Brymner retired, the house continued to serve as the residence for successive Bank of Montreal managers until the 1950s.

The ‘Apartment’ Years

Photo: Paul Fuoco

Succumbing to the pressure of the post-WWII housing crisis, Breeze-Hurst was converted into apartments for returning soldiers and their families.  Further modernization ensued. The gracious verandah was removed; the wood siding exterior was clad over with asbestos tiles; and interior cedar beams and paneling were ripped out and replaced with dropped ceiling and drywall. The conservatory’s glass ceiling was removed and windows were boarded up⎯ all to create 11 apartments. The tennis courts were sold to make way for an apartment building next door.


The early 1990s heralded the salvation of Breeze-Hurst. The new owners were determined to restore this grand dame of New West to its original glory — an absolutely Herculean task. The exterior asbestos shingles were removed to reveal wide V-joint siding. Clues to the missing verandah came from old photos and the original verandah outline. Inside, layers of paint and drywall were removed to reveal the vestibule’s staircase newel posts, banister and cedar paneling. The re-emergence of the original coloured-glass vestibule door was a welcome surprise. The conservatory, said to be the oldest in the city, was restored.  The front parlour mantle, made of BC maple by the Mechanic Mill Company of New Westminster, was restored. The beamed ceilings and paneling in the dining room and billiard room were reproduced using new material. The owners went on to release several of the six bedrooms and bathrooms from their cramped state as rooms and smalls suites.

A new chapter

Photo: Barbara Tili

As the millennium dawned. the torch passed to another intrepid couple who continued the sensitive restoration of Breeze-Hurst — this time in the kitchen and principal bedroom. With inspired restraint, they stopped stripping the bedroom walls when they reached muted green wallpaper, which is thought to be over 100 years old.

Photo: Barbara Tili

Two years ago, the torch passed yet again to the current owners – one is a contractor. So far, the kitchen and the wainscotting in the billiard room have been repainted; and the damaged lath (thin narrow strips of wood nailed to rafters, joists, or studding as a surface to attach slates, tiles or plaster) in the upper hallway and nursery has been repaired or replaced and skim-coated with plaster.

The open entrance to the basement is now enclosed by a new wall built with tongue-and-groove paneling original to the house. Next on the list, replacing the clumsy railing and banister at the top of the grand staircase in the foyer with a soaring 22 foot-high ceiling. By chance, the owners were gifted with the original spindles and handrail by a former tenant who lived at Breeze-Hurst in the ‘apartment years’.