1931 Bowker Place
John Sylvester Bowker House
Oak Bay Farm
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
1931 Bowker Place is a one-and-one-half storey house located in a residential area near Willows Beach in Oak Bay, British Columbia. There is a prominent cross-gable to the right of the main entrance, which is inside a glazed porch, and a verandah to the left. The house is surrounded by mature vegetation including some very old holly trees.
This site provides a valuable illustration of Oak Bay's development from a farming to a residential community, and an insight into the aspirations of farmers to improve their simple homes into fashionable residences. The house is located on land once owned by pioneer John Tod and later by his daughter Mary and her husband, successful stock-raiser John Sylvester Bowker. At the core of this house is the hip-roofed cottage occupied by the Bowkers from about 1880. In 1912 their son, John Sylvester Junior, employed noted Victoria architect Samuel Maclure to make substantial additions, interior changes, and an extensive landscape design. The house originally faced Beach Drive and was approached through massive stone gate piers which frame the entrance to Willows Park further along Beach Drive. Over the years the tract of land in front of the house was sold and the back of the house became the main façade, now approached from Bowker Place. The garden is significant for its very old holly trees and a fig tree, all of which likely date from the construction of the original house around 1880. Landscape elements surviving from the original large property can still be seen in the immediate neighbourhood, including stone piers, remnants of the rock wall, and a line of Japanese Black Pine trees that once marked the western boundary of the estate, now the 1900-block of Beach Drive.
1931 Bowker Place is valued for its association with the pioneering Tod and Bowker families. John Tod was a Scottish-born Hudson's Bay Company fur trader and Chief Factor who owned 406 acres of fields and oaks south of Uplands Farm between what is now Cadboro Bay Road and the Willows Beach/Cattle Point area. Tod was one of five original landholders in Oak Bay, the first Company retiree to settle in the area, and a member of the Council of the Colony of Vancouver Island. In 1864 Tod's second daughter, Mary, was married to John Sylvester Bowker, and about this time Tod is believed to have given a portion of his farm to Mary. Nearby places named for the Bowker family include Bowker Place, Bowker Road and Bowker Creek.
1931 Bowker Place is also valued for its association with noted architect Samuel Maclure, whose architectural style was influential in the development of British Columbia's residential architecture from the late nineteenth century through the early decades of the twentieth. Maclure's characteristic attention to detail and use of Tudor Revival elements are evident in his work at 1931 Bowker Place.
This site is of special significance to the people of the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations because the large village of Sitchamalth, centred on Willows Beach, once stood on this land. It is thought to have been occupied by a people of the same name for over 2,700 years.
Source: District of Oak Bay
Key elements that define the heritage character of 1931 Bowker Place include its:
- setting amidst mature landscaping
- location on a residential street, with minimal setback from the street
- residential form, scale, and massing
- multiple roof styles including hipped, gabled, and flat
- wood-frame construction on rubble stone foundation, with red tuck pointing
- style details, such as Mock Tudor half-timbering in the gable peak, arched boards between verandah posts, heavy barge-boards, heart motif pierced in the verandah balusters
- exterior architectural details, such as three brick chimneys, verandah, rubble-stone steps
- double-hung wooden sash windows
- irregular fenestration
- interior features such as wood panelling with plate rail, Philippine gumwood floor, coffered ceilings, original light fixture in dining room, original kitchen dresser/side-board, original fireplaces
- landscape features such as mature holly trees, fig tree
Local Governments (BC)
Local Government Act, s.954
Community Heritage Register
1912/01/01 to 1912/01/01
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Extraction and Production
- Peopling the Land
Function - Category and Type
- Single Dwelling
- Food Supply
- Farm or Ranch
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
District of Oak Bay Planning Department
Cross-Reference to Collection