Architect Brad Shuya outside the Pedneault family heritage home. Shuya had it moved about one mile from Saanich Road to Ralph Street in 1999. Travis Paterson/News Staff

Heritage homes are worth it

Built of old growth timber, Pedneault house hard to replace

It took nearly two years of planning and was nearly deemed too big of a job, but in the end Brad Shuya got his house.

The architect pulled off a coup in terms of historic houses, bringing the solidly-built 1938 house from it’s original site at the corner of Saanich and Vernon roads, a mile up the road to Ralph Street, across from Swan Lake.

“It started in 1997, I was the architect for the La-Z-Boy furniture store that was going in, and this house was there on the one-acre lot,” Shuya recalled. “When I got talking to the owners, I learned it was coming down, and I knew that was a shame.”

Shuya and his wife had just finished a significant reno and addition at their house of the time, but couldn’t resist visiting the Pedneault home.

“We found it was in pristine condition, had never been renovated, and we fell in love it with it,” Shuya said.

To this day the interior lathe has never been painted, and works to the house’s remarkable charm. The house maintains its original tiled kitchen floor, wall-mounted phone, in-wall fire hose, clear grain oak hardwood floors and, most importantly, the unseen wall to wall floor joists made of old growth fir.

The original builder, Louis Pedneault, had a saw mill in Sooke and used the old growth to make his dream home. It was so solid, thanks in part to the floor joists, that it made moving it easier (once it was on the road, that is).

Falling in love was the easy part. The sizable house is quite tall, and they were unsure they could move it. But the moving company’s believed it was possible.

“There were quite a few restrictions, particularly power lines, that limited us to about a one mile radius,” Shuya said.

Finally, with the entrance and porch of the house cut off and transferred separately, the house was ready to go. The window to move the house was between 2 and 5 a.m. It started with a scare, as they needed additional tow trucks to pull it out of the mud, leaving only an hour to complete the move.

“We went up north up the southbound lane of the [Vernon/Pat Bay Highway],” Shuya said. “The police closed the road, fire department removed fire hydrants, and B.C. Hydro lifted and removed power lines.”

The last piece was to remove the fence that stands between the highway and Ralph Street.

“It was a big job but the value still outweighed the costs, you couldn’t build a house for that price,” said Shuya, who runs his architect practice from an office in the house’s ground floor.

Restoration is nothing new for Shuya, who recently led the redesign of Ecole Quadra’s entrance, a new Camosun tech building, the roof at Bayside middle school and is leading the new Sidney Community Safety Building.

Noted Victoria author, historian and heritage house buff Valerie Green recounted the Pedneault family’s history in her book If These Walls Could Talk – Victoria’s Houses From The Past, published in 2001.

“The Pedneault home was the house that wouldn’t sell, Louis wasn’t interested despite the commercial development that was springing up around him,” Green recalled.

Green penned a Saanich News column for 19 years, often focusing on heritage homes such as the Pedneault house, and previously served on the Saanich Heritage Foundation board with Shuya.

“Many people do wonderful restorations to the houses though some slip through the cracks, and they’re demolished, sadly,” Green said.

A timely example is the Verdier house in Central Saanich. The arts and crafts style house, built in 1911, is being moved to accommodate a new development by Stride Properties that proposes a 40-unit rental building managed by the Greater Victoria Housing Society, as well as six market townhomes.

“The house is going to stay on the land, possibly moving a few yards to face West Saanich Road,” Green said. “It’s not going far, which is good.”

Green credits Stride Properties as not all developers are as keen on preserving heritage homes.

“I’ve found that there are developers who couldn’t care less, they just want to make money and don’t care about knocking down old houses, don’t care to restore them,” Green said. “But mostly I’ve found developers are willing to listen to people’s views, and are sympathetic to people’s feelings about heritage, which I think is important.”

For more information on heritage homes visit the Saanich heritage register at Saanich.ca.

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