900 Park Boulevard, Victoria, British Columbia, V8V, Canada
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
Tweedsmuir Mansions is a three and one-half storey, stucco-clad, flat-roofed apartment building in the Streamline Moderne style located to the north and east of Beacon Hill Park in Victoria's Fairfield neighbourhood.
The historic place, built in 1936, is valued for its architecture, its architect, its original owners, its location adjacent to Beacon Hill Park, and as an example of a landmark building protected from unsympathetic redevelopment through community effort.
Tweedsmuir Mansions is valued as a seminal example of Streamline Moderne design in Victoria. Designs in Art Deco and Streamline Moderne first appeared in North America in the 1930s. Billed at the time of construction as 'the last word in apartment house design and construction', Tweedsmuir Mansions represents a break with classical designs and illustrates the new alliance between art and technology that was characteristic of Modernist architecture. The building's new technologies such as refrigerators, electric ranges, washing machines and extensive soundproofing, were heavily advertised. This was the first building in Victoria with a penthouse suite.
It is also valued as an example of the work of architect William J. Semeyn. Born in Holland, Semeyn began his career in Canada in the Victoria office of Samuel Maclure, but was a sole practitioner for much of his career. Semeyn experimented with several different building styles but is noted for his Modernist forms. He also designed the Rainbow Mansion apartments (805-811 Academy Close) on the north side of Beacon Hill Park in a muted form of the Art Deco style.
This building has value for its association with the original owners, Colin and Florence Forrest, who also built the Modernist-style Cathay Apartment Hotel at 855 Douglas street and the Royal Oak Inn at 4509 West Saanich Road. They arrived in Victoria from Shanghai in August 1935. That they were willing to invest considerable funds, even in the midst of the Great Depression - no expense was spared - demonstrates their faith in the future of Victoria's economy. Permission to use the name 'Tweedsmuir' was obtained from the Governor General of the day, Sir John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir of Elsfield.
The building also has heritage value for its location, described in a 1936 Daily Colonist article as 'the most desirable from all points of view.' On the west and south it overlooks the lawn bowling green and cricket pitches of Beacon Hill Park, with views beyond to the Olympic Mountains. The park's walking paths, gardens and natural areas provide amenities to residents of the building.
The building's social value is evident in the community's efforts to protect it from unsympathetic redevelopment. A 1988 proposal to add eight new apartments was unanimously defeated by Council, and when changes were proposed again in 1991, the plans were modified to be more in keeping with the original style. The building continues to be a landmark in the community.
Source: City of Victoria Planning Department
Key elements that define the heritage character of 900 Park Boulevard include:
- characteristics of the Streamline Moderne style including asymmetrical butterfly plan, flat roof, stucco facing, stepped top parapet with fluting detail, canopy over front entrance, wood window sash
- front and side setbacks
- relationship between the building and Beacon Hill Park
- landmark status
Local Governments (BC)
Local Government Act, s.954
Community Heritage Register
Theme - Category and Type
- Peopling the Land
Function - Category and Type
- Multiple Dwelling
Architect / Designer
William J. Semeyn
Location of Supporting Documentation
City of Victoria Planning Department
Cross-Reference to Collection