Judge Spinks/Price Ellison House
Links and documents
1893/01/01 to 1894/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Spinks/Ellison House is a two-storey English Arts and Crafts country house located on 36th Avenue above Pleasant Valley Road on the East Hill of Vernon.
The Spinks/Ellison House is significant as the home of two prominent Vernon families who played significant roles in the judicial, political, and social evolution of Vernon.
W.W. Spinks was born in Liverpool in 1851. After graduating from law school, he immigrated to Canada after a chance meeting with Sir Charles Tupper, the Canadian High Commissioner in London. He practiced law for four years in Kamloops before being appointed Judge of Court for the County of Yale. In 1892, a courthouse was built in Vernon and Spinks moved from Kamloops to Vernon. In 1893, Spinks commissioned the Vancouver firm of Fripp and Wills to design a large country house on Pleasant Valley Road in the fashionable Prospect Subdivision on East Hill. T.E. Crowell, in partnership with W.F. Cameron, was the successful contractor. The house was completed in 1894. Active in agriculture as well as law, Spinks owned several ranches and was instrumental in bringing alfalfa to the Okanagan Valley.
In 1907, Price Ellison bought the house. Ellison was a successful rancher who held extensive holdings throughout the North and Central Okanagan. He was elected to the Provincial Legislature in 1898, serving as Commissioner of Lands in 1909, Minister of Finance in 1910, and Minister of Agriculture in 1913. The Ellison family opened their home to the community for weddings, fundraising events, and meetings of community groups like the Primrose Club and Girl Guides. They entertained soldiers in both World Wars. At Christmas time, a large tree was decorated in the two-storey entrance hall. The gathering room was traditionally decorated with a large fir tree.
The house is also valued for its Arts and Crafts architecture and lavish interior decoration and for its association with the architect Robert McKay Fripp (1858-1917). Fripp was born in Clifton, a suburb of Bristol, England. While articling as an architect in Berkshire, Fripp was influenced by the Arts and Crafts theories of Richard Normal Shaw and William Morris. In British Columbia, Fripp was an active supporter of the movement, leading him to found the Arts and Crafts Society in Vancouver. He travelled widely and worked in New Zealand and Los Angeles, as well as British Columbia. The massing of the house was in the asymmetrical form of the Queen Anne Revival style, cross-gabled with an offset front gable thrust forward, and a central steeply-pitched hipped roof behind. A fire in 1932, led to a reduction in the height and the replacement of the complex roof structure with a simple side-gabled roof. The variety of surface materials, including drop siding and shingles, is in the Arts and Crafts aesthetic.
The house is also notable for its finely wrought interior features, including 12-foot ceilings, extensive use of fir, cedar and maple wood paneling, turned wood decoration, leaded windows with stained glass, a curved wooden staircase and fireplaces with metal surrounds and tiles decorated in arts and crafts motifs.
Source: City of Vernon Planning Department
Key elements that define the heritage character of the Spinks/Ellison House include its:
- two-storey massing
- location above Pleasant Valley Road
- wraparound verandahs with decorative porch rails
- variety of surface materials, including drop siding and shingle
- fenestration, including multi-light windows, leaded panes, stained glass
- cantilevered staircase with wooden balustrades and turned rails
- interior paneling
- art glass windows signed by H. Bloomfield and Son, glass manufacturers and designed in New Westminster
- grounds with mature trees including American oaks, acacias, honey locusts, ash, larch, maples, firs, and a barberry hedge given to Judge Spinks by Sir Henri de Lotbiniere, Lt. Governor of British Columbia
Local Governments (BC)
Local Government Act, s.954
Community Heritage Register
Theme - Category and Type
- Governing Canada
- Politics and Political Processes
- Governing Canada
- Security and Law
- Peopling the Land
Function - Category and Type
- Single Dwelling
Architect / Designer
Robert McKay Fripp
Location of Supporting Documentation
City of Vernon Planning Department
Cross-Reference to Collection