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2753 Somass Drive

2753 Somass Drive, Oak Bay, British Columbia, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2008/02/25

2753 Somass Drive, exterior view, 2007; District of Oak Bay, 2007
Oblique view, front (north) facade
2753 Somass Drive, exterior view, 2007; District of Oak Bay, 2007
Oblique view, back (south) facade
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Other Name(s)

Dr. H. Johns House
2753 Somass Drive

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2010/10/29

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

2753 Somass Drive is a two-storey Art Moderne house located on a gently sloping waterfront lot near the mouth of Bowker Creek in Oak Bay, British Columbia. The house is clad in stucco and has a basement. Only the upper storeys are visible from the street. An original boathouse is also located on the landscaped lot.

Heritage Value

2753 Somass Drive is valued as a fine example of the Art Moderne style. This style grew out of Art Deco but is more streamlined, with spare ornamentation usually limited to string courses, and a zig-zag motif. Buildings in the Art Moderne style are characterized by horizontality, curves, ribbon windows, and stucco cladding. The style was popular in Europe, less so in North America, for a relatively short period of time from the late 1930s and during the Second World War. The Art Moderne style is rare in Oak Bay.

The house is also important as an example of the work of architect Percy Leonard James, who designed it in 1938. James, who trained as an architect in his native England and came to Victoria at the age of thirty, was involved in a number of prestigious projects such as the Crystal Garden for the Canadian Pacific Railway. He spent 1934 in England and was exposed to European Modernism, which he embraced wholeheartedly.

This property is further valued for its association with the Johns family, who lived in the house for nearly thirty years. Dr. Thomas Johns was a well-known dentist, who practised in the Sayward Building in 1940s and 1950s. The family was prominent in Oak Bay society.

Source: District of Oak Bay Planning Department

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements that define the heritage character of 2753 Somass Drive include its:
- setting, on a waterfront lot on the Bowker Creek estuary with views across Juan de Fuca Strait
- location of the house on the lot, with minimal setback from the street
- form, scale, and massing; flat roof
- wood frame construction with stucco cladding, concrete foundations and details
- style details such as glass blocks set individually and in rectangular arrangements, string course (horizontal ornamental band), curved walls, horizontality, corner and ribbon windows
- exterior architectural details such as one internal chimney, parapet with drainage scuppers
- mixed fenestration, regular on second storey at rear, corner windows, bay window on west side
- interior features such as original lights, curved walls, simple baseboards
- landscape features including Garry oak trees, curved drive
- original boat house



British Columbia

Recognition Authority

Local Governments (BC)

Recognition Statute

Local Government Act, s.954

Recognition Type

Community Heritage Register

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Peopling the Land

Function - Category and Type



Single Dwelling

Architect / Designer

Percy Leonard James



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

District of Oak Bay Planning Department

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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