Nick Russell’s book Glorious Victorian Homes: 150 Years of Architectural History on British Columbia’s Capital is available now.

Author celebrates city’s architecture in book

In 2011 local historian and preservationist Nick Russell self-published a book entitled Glorious Victorian.

In 2011 local historian and preservationist Nick Russell self-published a book entitled Glorious Victorian; a book to bridge the gap between the wonderful heritage homes he found when he arrived in Victoria and the dearth of available literature describing those structures.

“There were a few old books out there with poor black and white photographs…really nothing to do justice to the great architecture that survives in this city,” said Russell. “I put together and self-published the original book and within a very short time I sold out the 1,700 copies I’d had printed.”

The success of the original publication prompted him to take his book to B.C. based publisher, Touch Wood Editions, where they were enthralled by his guide to the city’s most diverse and historically relevant homes. The book was reworked, polished, and some homes were added to the list whilst others were removed. The resulting compendium of the most historically significant architecture Victoria has to offer has been retitled Glorious Victorian Homes: 150 Years of Architectural History on British Columbia’s Capital.

Russell’s love of history and architecture has deep roots.

“When I first got married we bought what was really no more than a shack in the Fraser Valley, but we fixed it up and in the process developed a love for the idea of saving a glorious older home and all the history it represented,” said Russell.

Later, when he moved to Regina he bought an old brick home and, again, restored it to its original beauty. That labour of love won him a few awards, he explained, and he was firmly invested in the preservationist mindset.

Upon retiring, he moved to Victoria.

“When I got to Victoria, I saw all these amazing homes and, while I was glad to see that many of them were protected as heritage sites, many more had never managed to get on the list,” said Russell. “A lot of these homes are very vulnerable, and could easily be lost if people don’t care enough to save them.”

Russell explained how some homes, even those on the heritage list, could be lost through what he calls ‘demolition by neglect’. He points to Ross Bay Villa on Fairfield Road as an example of one such property that was saved just in the nick of time. The villa is one of the houses featured in Russel’s book.

“The place was an overgrown dump when we first saw it,” said Russell. “Most everyone, the municipality, the neighbours…everyone…just wanted to be rid of it.”

But he and a group of like minded individuals came to the rescue, and with a lot of effort, restored the property to its former glory. It now operates as a historic house museum.

“Once these houses are gone, there’s no getting them back and it’s important we appreciate their value and the ties they provide to our past,” he said.

It’s why Russell’s book contains some homes currently on the heritage protection list along with many that are not. He considered the home’s size, the architecture and architect, who lived there, the street scape of the home and whether the integrity of the house’s original design has been maintained.

One of the reasons Russell loves Victoria is based on the surviving architecture and the sense of history and community it provides. He cringes at some of the new construction he sees rising around the city and while he’s quick to point out there are some great architects and designs in Victoria’s new construction, he feels the old adage of a person’s home being their castle is misplaced.

“Every homeowner…every property owner… should recognize they are a part of a larger street-scape. People come to Victoria to see the beautiful homes. You shouldn’t just do what you want with a property without considering how it impacts on the street and the neighbours,” he said.

Russell’s book is a reminder of a time when homes were built to last, with ‘strong bones’ and a consideration for the aesthetics of the entire neighbourhood.

Glorious Victorian Homes: 150 Years of Architectural History on British Columbia’s Capital can be found at Bolen and Munro’s bookstores.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Helping others, especially those struggling with mental health issues, keeps MOD Pizza owner Jim Hayden cooking. (RIck Stiebel/News Staff)
A 1900s writing box found in Greater Victoria contained ink, photos and a letter addressed to Clara McCaubry dated October 14, 1898. (Photo courtesy Suzanne Hervieux)
Mysterious 1900s writing box finds a home among Saanich Archives

Wooden chest owned by early Saanich resident Clara Isabelle McCaubry

(Black Press Media file photo)
Spooky online class cooks up funds for Greater Victoria Imagination Library

United Way Greater Victoria offers how-to for witch cookies, tasty coffin as fundraiser

Murray Rankin has announced he will seek the nomination for the Oak Bay Gordon Head riding in the 2021 provincial election (which could happen in the fall of 2020). The former Minister of Parliament for the Victoria riding from 2012 to 2019.
(MurrayRankin.com)
New Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Murray Rankin says he will use his federal connections

Rankin said being part of NDP majority government gives him a strong voice

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Most Read