200 King George Terrace


This house is located in Oak Bay along the marine scenic drive near the lookout at the upper edge of Trafalgar Park. Quite a few photos in this blog have been taken at the lookout, or in Trafalgar Park just below it. It is easy to be attracted to the view over the Strait of Juan de Fuca and not turn to look at the rest of the surroundings. This is a shame because this house, which is right across the road from the lookout, is quite special. It, and the one next door (#230 which is not visible from most of the lookout), are heritage houses from the 1940’s; this one was built in 1940-1941.

I was surprised when I used my polarizing filter on this shot as it showed what must be high tech windows that seem to be made from a gem stone, appropriate I think.

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The Hallmark Society refers to the architectural style of this house, and the one next door, as Streamline Modern. I will take their word for it, since what I know about classification of building styles could fit in a thimble. What I do know is that I like this type of building. Unfortunately, buildings of merit from this era are being demolished, replaced sometimes with buildings that are not nearly as pleasing to the eye or the neighbourhood. 200 King George Terrace has been threatened in the recent past. New owners of it and # 230 next door wanted to subdivide the properties so as to create a third lot and build a new house. They ran into a lot of opposition, and it looked as if the weak-kneed Oak Bay Council was going to acquiesce, yet again, to the destruction of an irreplaceable piece of built heritage. Why do people behave as if property owners have an inherent right to subdivide, when they don’t? Anyway, rants aside, this Times Colonist newspaper article gives some good information about the issue and the two houses, referring to their style as Art Deco.

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There is a fascinating, though quite long, article in the Douglas magazine (here) about the impacts of heritage protection on development in Victoria, and of how some developers are embracing the heritage value of their buildings and redeveloping them, even if the costs are higher. They are taking a commendably patient and long term view – both of the past and with respect to future profits.   These examples show what can be done with the right combination of attitudes. These developers don’t bully and blackmail their way through municipal committees and hearings, and thus are much better received than the ones wearing their “rights” on their sleeves.

The one mildly frustrating thing about this house is it’s hidden from street level, though the tourists in buses get a good look above the hedge, wall and fence.

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And wouldn’t you know it, the Gonzales Observatory, popping up in the background  of one of my pictures, again.

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If the links to new articles no longer work (newspaper links seem particularly volatile) then I have made an archive copy of the Douglas article here (pdf) and of the Times Colonist article here (pdf); but please try the original links first.

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12 thoughts on “200 King George Terrace

  1. I love the Art Deco style along with Art Nouveau, there is something ascetically pleasing in the lines and curves of both.
    As for the stuff built by some since the late 1960’s, especially here in UK: I think it was a certain Prince who described them as a “Carbuncle” which was very appropriate.

    David.

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    • Hi David – I love these curves too. I am relieved that the house has survived all the development pressures that a prime location like this is subject to. For now, anyway.

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  4. I have a soft spot for architectural photography. Great set, and FABULOUS write-up here on this issue! As you know, I truly love our historically significant heritage buildings and your focus on this subject here is important and interesting. Great work.

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    • Hi Toad – I am glad you like this one. These are interesting houses, and I find this balancing act between keeping some of the old and finding ways to build future heritage buildings a fascinating subject. If they built less dross in place of fine old buildings I would be less concerned, but mediocrity seems to rule the day. I sense a correlation between developers that are not interested in heritage buildings and those that will only build mediocre new ones – perhaps there is a common factor such as unwillingness to pay for any extras, perhaps they are the same developers. There are some new private residences being built in this area which are extremely interesting and if they survive will, in 60 or 70 years, be considered heritage structures worthy of protection. These tend to be built by people that intend on living in them for a long time. Interesting recent commercial buildings are much more difficult to find in Victoria.

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  5. I like this style of architecture and your photos are stunning. I’m on the fence about sub-deviding as each case has to be evaluated on its merits. Owners have rights, too.

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    • Hi Ken. Thanks so much for your comment. I absolutely agree that such decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis. In this case there were two lots, neither of which could be subdivided on its own. A speculative investor recognised that if they could acquire both lots they could then subdivide a third off of them. The owner of either house on its own would not have considered subdivision an option, the planning authorities would not consider it as even a possibility as they viewed the properties as separate, and people that bought property next door would not think another house could be built. It was only a shrewd and sophisticated developer with the opportunity to buy both parcels who recognized what no one else had seen. Why should this person, who is speculating and taking a calculated risk, not be required to stick with the status quo? It is like a bit of sorcery, no matter how legal.

      There is a difference here that you might not be aware of as an American (I am assuming from where you live). There are property rights entrenched in the US Constitution. Many Canadians think, because of our many common cultural values that we too have entrenched property rights. And, many Americans think that Canada and the rest of the world has the same basic rights as in the USA (as do Canadians, about the rest of the world). But in fact, there are no property rights in the Canadian constitution, and the protections of “real property” rights are mostly found in Common Law which derives from ancient British law. Therefore, property rights are extremely different in Canada than the USA, and property owners are constantly being reminded that they barely even own the land, let alone can do what they want with it. If you are interested in this topic, you can find out more here. Might be a good plan anyway because I am not a lawyer and this summary likely mangles the topic.
      I am not disagreeing with your point by the way, I think case-by-case is the way to go, that property owners do have some fundamental rights, such as to the quiet use and enjoyment of their property. However, since there is no inherent right to subdivide in Canada we should not lose sight of that when these kinds of issues arise.

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    • Hi obrienspix – glad that you like them. As Joseph says, that scene is made for black and white. I metered for the house, pretty sure I used the spot meter setting on the camera. The sky was better for the first one, but the polarizing filter did a lot for the sky in the second one by darkening it up.

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  6. The heritage business is a very interesting niche in the developers’ scene. I’ve been watching and following the adventures of many of Victoria’s heritage sites and am glad the houses in your photographs are still standing as they are a beautiful and very recognizable part of Victoria’s scenic drive. Even at the time they were under siege we were , with so many others, rooting for their survival. Nice photographs, especially the two top ones. First one because the scene is made for black and white, second one of course because of its color and reflections. Beautiful.

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    • Thank you Joseph. Further along King George Terrace at this same time the Redpath House was removed so that the waterfront lot could be subdivided into three lots. One of those lots still sits empty, confounding Oak Bay’s greed for extra taxes. Fortunately that house was removed intact and now resides on Saltspring Saturna Island. A lot of Victoria area houses are being barged over to the San Juan Islands in Washington State, which I find to be a bit of an indictment of our values.

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