Description of Historic Place
Fairacres Mansion is a large, two-and-one-half storey estate house in the British Arts and Crafts style, located in Deer Lake Park, with four associated original outbuildings.
Fairacres Mansion is important as a record of the early years of Burnaby, specifically the Deer Lake area, as a place of tranquility and beautiful scenery in which the wealthy and successful in the burgeoning cities of New Westminster and Vancouver chose to retire or to make their family homes. The main house, which anchors in style and setting the outbuildings on the estate, demonstrates the social, cultural, and aesthetic values of local wealthy businessmen and women of the early twentieth century - values such as appreciation of architectural elegance and grand interior spaces, leisure and recreation, formal landscaped gardens and scenic views.
Also important is the association with the English born and trained architect Robert Percival Sterling Twizell (1875-1964), as this was one of his grandest residential commissions. Steeped in the current architectural trends in Great Britain, Twizell designed this sprawling mansion in the Arts and Crafts style, reflected in the architectural detailing and proportions. The style was common at the time and was often used for estate mansions as a symbol of affluence and good, modern taste, as well as an affinity for all things British. Quality is displayed inside and out in the finishes and materials, orchestrated by prominent local contractor, James Charles Allen, including imported English materials of specific value, such as imported Medmenham tiles in the fireplace surrounds, one of the earliest documented use of these tiles outside the United Kingdom. Detailed features of the interior woodwork were carved by Scottish born master wood carver George Selkirk Gibson (1867-1942), who was best known for his many commissions for prominent British Columbia architect Samuel Maclure.
The outbuildings at Fairacres Mansion are an important record of the functioning of a large estate of the time. The Garage and Stables and the Chauffeur's Cottage accommodated the use of automobiles, horses and carriages, and, in concert with the estate's location near the new British Columbia Electric Railway Burnaby Lake interurban line, illustrate the evolving nature of regional transportation and the growing bedroom communities and estates made possible by increasing options for transportation. Other outbuildings accommodated the agricultural activities that helped support the Ceperley estate.
The estate was conceived and funded by American-born Grace E. Dixon Ceperley (1863-1917), who had achieved significant wealth through a bequest from her brother-in-law, Vancouver pioneer Arthur Ferguson. Her husband, Henry Tracy Ceperley (1850- 1929), also American-born, was a successful and well-respected businessman who made a significant contribution to the development of the City of Vancouver. The construction of Fairacres spawned the transformation of the Deer Lake area from a farming community into a preferred location for elite suburban homes.
Fairacres Mansion is significant to the City of Burnaby as its first civic heritage conservation project. Acquired in 1966 for conversion to Burnaby's first art gallery, it was dedicated in 1967 to mark Canada's Centennial of Confederation.
Source: City of Burnaby Planning and Building Department
Key elements that define the heritage character of Fairacres Mansion include its:
- setting in relation to the gardens, its former market garden, and the vistas to Deer Lake and other grand homes in the area
- side-gabled roof with prominent dormers and cedar shingle cladding
- verandah across the eastern (garden) facade, with its view over the landscaped gardens and the distant mountains
- porte cochere with its side steps for those arriving by automobile, and central raised step for those alighting from horse-drawn carriages
- rich variety of exterior elements that demonstrate the typical Arts and Crafts use of local materials, such as cobblestone chimneys and foundations, wide wooden siding and half-timbering
- mixture of double-hung and casement wooden-sash windows, many with multi-paned sash
- lavish interior spaces, designed for entertaining on a grand scale, including a billiard room with a beamed ceiling and an inglenook fireplace, and generous living and dining rooms arranged off a central hall
- quality of the interior materials, such as imported Medmenham tiles in fireplace surrounds, window hardware by Hope and Sons, and leaded stained glass
- interior woodwork, including the staircase, and carvings by George Selkirk Gibson
- remaining formal Edwardian garden landscape elements, including the cross-axial plan that reflects the relationship of the mansion to its outdoor rooms