Piano Keep Bed and Breakfast
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Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
Birch Lodge is a two-and-one-half-storey Neoclassical-style residence located at 815 Mackenzie Avenue in Revelstoke. The building site is bounded on three sides by Mackenzie Avenue, Silver Lane, and Seventh Street.
The value of Birch Lodge lies in its connection with a prominent Revelstoke businessman, Robert Howson. It represents the type of personal residence built by the early merchants in Revelstoke to celebrate their new wealth. Robert Howson was born in Ontario in 1864, then left to homestead in Saskatchewan, where he met and married Fanny Campbell. Robert worked as a carpenter with the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), maintaining the tracks which were constantly in danger of collapse due to the harsh Canadian climate. As a married man, he lived in a CPR boxcar which was pulled off to a siding at night. The Howsons arrived in Revelstoke in 1889, where Robert began work as a building contractor. As well as constructing buildings for the CPR and private owners, he expanded into the furniture business with the acquisition of Jas. McDonald and Co. in 1890. In 1898, he expanded into the funeral business, and in 1901 he entered the lumber business as a partner in a mill west of the CPR track to Arrowhead. In 1905, he sited this home, which he called 'The Birches' after the trees on the property, so he could view the sawmill operations from his upper deck. When Robert left Revelstoke in 1920, his son Len operated these businesses until he sold them to A.S. Brandon in 1926. Robert was the first president of the Railroad YMCA and oversaw the construction of the facility on land donated by the railway and financed by funds raised in the community.
The heritage value of Birch Lodge is represented in the architectural styling, which features Palladian symmetry. Its concrete block construction reinforces the idea of wealth and permanence and reflects the growing confidence in the young town. The building was built with a view to entertaining friends of the Howson family, with its wraparound verandah and high quality finishes inside and out. The house is sited so that local mountains are framed by the upper storey windows. The building sits amid mature landscaping, which forms an integral part of the site.
Birch Lodge was one of the first large houses built by former CPR employees who became entrepreneurs in the growing town. It marks the beginning of the gradual change of Revelstoke from a centre in which the railway was the driving economic force to a city with its own economic impact.
The building is also valued for its association with Vern and Gwen Enyedy, who bought the property and converted it from a rooming house to the Piano Keep Bed and Breakfast. Vern, a professional piano repairer and restorer, used the basement to restore several pianos to their former glory. His collection of 70 pianos drew many musicians from throughout the world, including Vladimir Ashkenazy. Vern restored much of the interior of the house, which had deteriorated during its rooming house days.
Source: City of Revelstoke Planning Department
The character-defining elements of Birch Lodge include:
- residential form, scale and massing, as expressed by its two-and-one-half-strorey height and symmetrical plan
- Neoclassical revival features, including pillars which support the verandah, the wraparound verandah with rounded corners, balconies, dormer windows, doors, balustrades, upper balconies on north and south sides, chimneys, and corner eave brackets
- exterior construction of concrete block with rusticated detail on the visible side
- pattern of fenestration
- stained glass windows
- symmetry of the design, with each side a virtual mirror of the other
- relationship between the house and the three streets which bound it
- relationship between the house, the railway, and the river
- mature landscaping
Local Governments (BC)
Local Government Act, s.954
Community Heritage Register
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Trade and Commerce
Function - Category and Type
- Commerce / Commercial Services
- Hotel, Motel or Inn
- Single Dwelling
- Multiple Dwelling
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
City of Revelstoke Planning Department
Cross-Reference to Collection