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Heritage house could become condos

Mar 08 2012
Consideration of an application for heritage alteration variances for 1156 Fort St. has been postponed for two weeks, until the city receives a heritage conservation plan. 

Consideration of an application for heritage alteration variances for 1156 Fort St. has been postponed for two weeks, until the city receives a heritage conservation plan.

Photograph by: Darren Stone, timescolonist.com (March 2012)

One of Victoria's oldest and most historically significant houses is up for conversion into condominiums.

Known as Wentworth Villa, the house at 1156 Fort St. was built in 1862 and has been used as an antique store since 1940.

Le Fevre and Company is planning a conversion to strata units.

A two-storey addition is planned on the northwest corner of the main building.

According to city planning staff, an existing garage at the rear of the property is to be removed. Plans include renovating the existing coach house by raising the roof and dormers to provide proper living space; installing new second floor windows in the gable ends and larger windows in the dormer; installing a new dormer on the northwest side; and installing a new entrance and bay window on the north side of the main floor.

In all, the plan is to provide 14 new residential units in the three main buildings - the main house, addition and coach house.

The plans also call for removal of a small addition, thought to have been built in 1956, at the rear of the building and removal a number of trees, including three mature trees that are in poor to fair condition. Trees are to be planted to replace a 112 centimetre maple in the rear yard that is to be removed. A large 80-centimetre chestnut tree on the east side of the site is to be retained.

Architect Charles Kierulf says the extensive work planned in the main house will be sensitive to the history and character of the building. Existing interior character elements will be retained and new work will follow existing detailing.

While city staff support the application for heritage alteration variances, the city's planning and zoning committee, at Coun. Pam Madoff's request, has postponed consideration for two weeks pending receipt of a heritage conservation plan.

"This is certainly the most significant house from the 1860s in Victoria. It's also, in all likelihood, the most significant residential building from the 1860s in the entire province," Madoff said.

Madoff noted that, while the building's exterior is heritage designated, the interior is not.

The house was built for Capt. Henry Ella and was one of the first buildings to be added to the city's heritage register.

A report by Victoria's senior heritage planner, Steve Barber, says the house expresses "the fortitude, vision and success of its owner - who chose to build on the isolated trail from Fort Victoria to the eastern shore."

It is one of Victoria's most notable examples of the rural Carpenter-Gothic sub style and, when built, was in a woodland area a considerable distance east of the city, Barber says.

"Its style reflects the late arrival of the Gothic Revival movement on the northwest coast, coinciding with the city of Victoria [1862] and the increasing prosperity and stability of the new settlement growing up around Fort Victoria," Barber says.

Ella was the master of several vessels, including the Recovery and the Otter, and was later a pilot.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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