The subdivision of the lot that houses the mansion-style Blair Gowie house at 2031 Runnymede Ave. was approved last week.
The deal approves a heritage revitalization agreement to maintain the upkeep of the three-storey Blair Gowie mansion, which is known amongst heritage for being designed by Sam Maclure. It is of Italian Renaissance style, was built in 1916, is situated at the junction where Runnymede Place intersects with Runnymede Avenue and was designated as a heritage house in 1980.
In the proposal the 2,918 square foot house will remain with the majority parcel of the lot. The proposal carves out a five-sided polygon of 12,800 sq. ft. from the north end of the lot.
Couns. Cairine Green, Esther Paterson, Eric Zhelka and Tara Ney voted in favour with a 4-3 split that saw Mayor Kevin Murdoch, and Couns. Andrew Appleton and Hazel Braithwaite opposed.
“If we said no, we’d be sending a message that Oak Bay doesn’t protect heritage,” Paterson said, adding there is still a filled in swimming pool on the lot that is full of rubble and needs to be addressed.
In 2011 the Blair Gowie house, which is popular for its design elements but also for its historical association with the Butchart family, was the subject of debate and concern as it was in deteriorating condition and in need of a buyer.
“The real fear was that we were going to see the deterioration and the demolition of this property by neglect,” said Ney. “It felt like a rescue.”
But Braithwaite said the heritage revitalization agreement and subdivision are not about that house.
“…It’s about a subdivision,” said Braithwaite, who did not support the HRA. “The intent in 1980 was to protect the entire house and grounds. This is a great community [of streets]. Will those properties nearby want to consider subdividing as well? [If so,] will those streets change?”
The house’s construction was originally commissioned by Harry Ross, the treasurer of the company the Vancouver Portland Cement Company. Ross married Jennie Butchart, the daughter of Robert Pim Butchart, the entrepreneur of the Portland cement company on the Tod Inlet and the former quarry that is now Butchart Gardens.
Maclure also designed the house’s 1926 alterations.