Saanich municipal hall marks half century

District plans celebration and tours for next week

Coun. Vicki Sanders

As a present on its 50th birthday, Saanich has placed added heritage designations to parts of the iconic municipal hall.

“The building is worth celebrating,” says Coun. Vicki Sanders, chair of the Arts, Culture and Heritage advisory committee. “It has specific importance.”

The municipal hall’s birthday party will be Dec. 1 at 7 p.m., when members of the Arts, Culture and Heritage committee and Saanich’s heritage foundation will offer tours and serve cake.

A new sign will also be unveiled, construction for which is underway on the Swan Lake side of the entrance. The sign, designed by local architect Brad Shuya, will accent the features of the municipal hall.

“It will be a nice feature to the entrance to the hall,” Sanders said, noting nearly all visitors come through the Darwin Street entrance that overlooks Swan Lake.

“Taking the time to recognize the architectural significance of the building and its unique design components presents an opportunity for the community to gather and celebrate its past, while looking to the future,” Sanders added.

Some have critiqued the hall as a triumph of cement, but Sanders defends its function and utility.

“When you see the original pictures, it’s very impressive. You have to step back from people’s personal opinions, the design and function was quite spectacular,” she said.

The hall was originally designed in “brutalist” fashion by Peter Blewett of the Wade Stockdill Armour architecture firm.

This month the various original ponds, a Saanich mural embossed in concrete, and other features have been added to Saanich’s heritage designation inventory. The building was already awarded heritage designation in 1992.

When Saanich was in its original home in Royal Oak it passed a bylaw to set aside money in the annual budget for a new hall in 1959. In 1961-62 a new police and fire hall was constructed on Vernon Avenue.

In 1963, Wade Stockdill Armour & Partners were appointed as architects for the new hall – Blewett was responsible for the design, and Lone V. Nielsen did the interior design. Construction firm George H. Wheaton Limited  won the bid to build it in 1964 for $611,616.

Philip Tattersfield and Associates were the landscape architects. It was opened Dec. 1, 1965 by Lieutenant-Governor George R. Pearkes for a final  cost, including furnishings, of about $800,000.

While the official party is Dec. 1, additional guided and self-guided tours will be offered Dec. 2 and 3, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A historical presentation on the Mayors of Saanich has been scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 2 in council chambers at 10 a.m.

reporter@saanichnews.com