On the corner of Parry and Michigan streets, in an area known as South Block, stand two homes side by side, almost identical in nature.
The Prout House (524 Michigan St.), so named after its original owner William Prout in 1891, is a two-storey wood-frame Victorian-era Italiante designed home with a front-gabled roof. Its front door is squared off with four white columns and its grand front-facing windows stand as tall as the entrance itself.
It was used as a rental property by Charles Beaven in the early 1900s, demonstrating an increased need for rental housing during a time of social and economic transitions in the neighbourhood.
Its neighbour is the Beaven/Macabe Residence (526 Michigan St), an Edwardian-era wood home with a full-width verandah supported by six Doric columns. First built in 1911, it was utilized as a boarding house in the mid 1910s.
Both stand tall against the other buildings in the block and are as long as they are tall. Their once vibrant exterior now stand dull and chipped.
Both reflect the housing stock being constructed for James Bay’s rapidly growing population in the early 1900s, and both have been declared heritage homes by the City of Victoria at a recent council meeting, in an attempt to preserve some of the city’s culture.
According to Ken Johnson, president of the Hallmark Heritage Society, the homes are in desperate need of repair.
“Prior to the new owners taking them on, those homes had very little protection and were very poorly maintained by the provincial government. Moving them and designating them as heritage homes is a good thing to have,” said Johnson.
“It’s part of being in community and we if we don’t have heritage homes, we tend to lose that continuity in our community. We don’t have a future without a past.”
The homes, which are owned by Jawl Precinct Lands Corporation, could be on the move from their current location as well to a property on the corner of Dallas Road and Dock Street in James Bay, pending city approval.
“We looked at a number of sites throughout the James Bay community and talked to a number of landlords, talked to the heritage planner and others at the city, of the ones available this was felt to be an acceptable and suitable site for them,” said Karen Jawl with the Jawl Corporation.
In addition to the potential move, the homes will also receive a facelift, including rehabilitating the exterior of the homes, replacing parts that are rotten, broken or beyond repair, repainting them and transforming the interiors to be thermally and seismically upgraded and reverted into single-family use.
Victoria currently has the highest number of heritage-designated homes with roughly 400, followed by Saanich with 80, noted Johnson.