Description of Historic Place
The Logan Mayhew house is single-storey post-and-beam T-shaped residence located on a waterfront lot in the Uplands subdivision of Victoria, British Columbia. The house is hidden from the road by mature landscaping, but clearly visible from the water side. The low rambling mass of the house is integrated into the sloping site, allowing views and generous outdoor spaces that visually and physically connect to the inside. The house is flat-roofed with generous overhangs carried on extended beams. A pop-up butterfly roof and stone chimneys provide vertical emphasis. A palette of natural materials provides a connection to the characteristically modern landscaping.
The Logan Mayhew house is significant because it represents a major break with the design traditions of the conservative community of Uplands, in which it stands, and because it is considered to have been influential in defining the distinctive West Coast style of architecture.
Built in 1951 at a time when Modernism, with its connotations of progress and innovation, was having a profound impact on Canadian clients and architects, the Logan Mayhew house is valued for its design, which includes many Modernist elements. These include the post-and-beam structural system, with its large panes of plate glass connecting the inside and the outside as one continuous space, the mainly flat roof, the open plan, and the extensive use of glass and natural materials such as cedar and slate. These are all key identifiers of an architecture which has become characteristic of the West Coast, an architecture which is sympathetic to, and in harmony with its environment.
This house has also played an important role in the history of the Uplands subdivision, because it broke the mold and paved the way for more innovative architectural styles in this conservative residential enclave. Formerly part of the Hudson's Bay Company's Uplands farm, this land was developed as a subdivision for the wealthy, designed by John Charles Olmsted. Curving streets, large estates, abundant landscaping, underground services, and architect-designed residences are the hallmark of this subdivision which was the first of its kind in Canada, and which has had a profound influence on the planning of other subdivisions consisting of large homes for wealthy clients. Rigid building codes and landscape restrictions have maintained the pristine appearance of the area. The construction of the Logan Mayhew house caused uproar amongst the residents and became a cause célèbre in the subdivision, in Oak Bay, and in the City of Victoria.
This site is further valued for its associations with architect Ron Thom and with the Mayhew family. Although the plans bear the name of the firm of Sharp and Thompson, Berwick, Pratt, its architect--according to the Mayhew family which still owns the property--was Ron Thom. Thom was influenced by the work and philosophy of Richard Neutra, who stressed the beneficial effect of a well-designed environment employing open plans, inside-outside connection, and the use of natural materials on the interior and exterior. This philosophy is abundantly evident in the Logan Mayhew house. Thom is honoured in western Canada for his influence on the West Coast style, while in eastern Canada he is renowned for his innovative institutional designs such as Trent University in Peterborough and Massey College at the University of Toronto. The Mayhew family was well known in Victoria. R. Logan Mayhew, who commissioned Thom to design his family home, was the son of Robert Wellington Mayhew, MP for Victoria in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Minister of Fisheries from 1945 to 1949, Canadian ambassador to Japan, and owner of Sidney Roofing Company. Logan, a respected local businessman and president of National Motors, was passionate about new technology and innovation. His wife, the former Margaret Bucklin, was the daughter of George Augustus Bucklin, U. S. Consul in Victoria from 1922 to 1924. The home had to satisfy the modern ideas and the entertaining requirements of the parents, as well as the needs of three children, and Thom was the ideal architect to design a home that would satisfy all these requirements.
Source: District of Oak Bay Planning Department
Key elements that define the heritage character of the Logan Mayhew house include its:
- setting amidst mature vegetation, with views across Haro Strait
- location, set well back from the road at the end of a curving driveway
- residential form, scale, and massing expressed in T-shaped floor plan, single-storey construction, and flat roof with inverted pitch (butterfly roof) in places
- construction of cedar posts and beams on a concrete foundation, clad in tongue-and-groove cedar
- West Coast style details such as extended beams and posts on the garden façade, louvred air vents beneath the windows, and slate flagstones inside and outside the floor-to-ceiling windows
- exterior architectural details such as two rubble-stone-clad chimneys with raised flat covers, and exposed beam ends
- fixed windows, none with glazing bars, including: large plate glass windows on garden façade; clerestory lights under inverted pitch roof (over kitchen and utility room); obscure-glass panel at front entry
- interior features such as coloured concrete floors with underfloor heating, slate flagstones, doors and walls of unfinished tongue-and-groove cedar, massive fireplace clad in bedded slate, original kitchen and utility room fittings such as stainless steel counter tops, and built-in drying cupboard
- landscape features such as slate flagstone patio, concrete block wall with chequerboard spaces, mature vegetation including Fatsia japonica, bamboo, and Garry oak trees