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

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

Former Oak Bay High Grade 12 student Brandon Kip plays the $100,000 Steinway piano in the Dave Dunnet Theatre. (Black Press Media file photo)
Oak Bay High Alumni Association passes torch to new president

The association has given back more than $70,000 in its 16 years

Saanich’s Malia Brodie competed in the Vancouver qualifiers for the 2020 National Championships. (Photo by BC Sport Karate Snaps)
PHOTOS: Saanich teen awarded $1,800 Karate Canada bursary to pursue officiant certification

Malia Brodie, 18, has black belt, nearly 15 years experience in karate

This photo courtesy of Leanne Grover shows the immediate aftermath of the fire at 7987 Galbraith Cres. that caused extensive damage and displaced six residents. (Leanne Grover/Submitted)
Residents of a Central Saanich duplex ‘fortunate’ to escape Sunday morning fire

Damage to the duplex extensive with one resident said to be ‘catatonic’ after escaping building

Sooke pickleball enthusiasts are rallying for funds to resurface the local outdoor courts. The group will come before council on April 13, where they will request for $7,000 towards the resurfacing project. (Photo from Sooke Pickleball Facebook page)
Sooke pickleball enthusiasts push for outdoor court resurfacing

Group to come before Sooke council April 13, asking for $7,000 grant

A speaker series, hosted by the Citizens Environment Network in Colwood, is aiming to help the community celebrate Earth Month. (Photo by Annacapictures/Pixabay)
Colwood speaker series celebrates Earth Month

Electric cars, community gardens, water systems and more to be highlighted in virtual webinars

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

Pat Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager, lives in his fifth-wheel trailer on Maxey Road because that’s what he can afford on his pension, but a Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw prohibits using RVs as permanent dwellings, leaving Kauwell and others like him with few affordable housing options. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Rules against RV living hard on Island residents caught in housing crunch

Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw forcing pensioner to move RV he calls home off private farm land

(Black Press file photo).
Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
Courtenay fossil hunter finds ancient turtle on local river

The specimen will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

Most Read