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1590 York Place

1590 York Place, Oak Bay, British Columbia, V8R, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2005/03/29

Exterior view of 1590 York Place, 2005; Corporation of the District of Oak Bay, 2005
South elevation
Exterior view of 1590 York Place, 2005; Corporation of the Distric of Oak Bay, 2005
Terrace, east elevation
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Other Name(s)

Harman House
Gibson House
Robert William and Sarah Jane Gibson House
1590 York Place

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2007/01/31

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

1590 York Place is a spectacularly sited, large, classically styled residence of grand architectural design in Oak Bay. The white house, with its red tile roof, punctuated by white arched dormers and five brick chimneys, is visible for miles, above the many mature trees on the property. The property is located on York Place within an area of other grand heritage houses.

Heritage Value

1590 York Place is valued for its magnificent setting, amid mature grounds of rockeries and flowerbeds, with views overlooking Oak Bay and the southern Gulf Islands. At 12,000 square feet, and having eleven bedrooms, bathrooms and fireplaces, it is the largest private residence in Oak Bay.

Built in 1919, this house is an outstanding example of a design collaboration between architects Francis Mawson Rattenbury and Samuel Maclure, the two most famous BC architects of the early 20th century. Rattenbury, who designed the Empress Hotel and British Columbia Parliament Buildings, was responsible for the overall scheme having drawn 17 sheets of plans in 1914. A previous home on the site was moved to make way for the Rattenbury design. Architect Samuel Maclure was assisted by Ross Lort on the completion of this magnificent residence. Maclure was a suitable choice for architect, as he was known as BC's best domestic architect, having designed Hatley Park, and collaborated on Government House with Rattenbury. An addition to the rear of 1590 York Place, and duplexing of the residence occured in 1956, designed by Birley and Simpson.

The continuity of ownership of this house is valued. The original owner, Robert William Gibson, and his second wife Sarah Jane Giibson derived their fortune from lumber interests in Winnipeg and the Beaver Lumber empire. This home is representative of a residence of a sucessful tycoon of the early 20th century. The Gibsons' eldest daughter Doris married Howard Harman, a lawyer who went on to found a law firm that exists today as Crease, Harman & Co. In 1931, Mr. and Mrs. Harman built next door at 1586 York Place. They moved away but later returned as residents and owners of 1590 York Place after the death of the Gibsons. Doris Harman lived in the home until 1990, when she moved to a smaller house that had been built in the lower garden in the 1950s, now a separate property owned by her son Robert Harman. The current (2005) owners have restored the main house to a single family residence, and have also acquired some of the original furnishings, including a piano, carpets, plates, and couches, as well as some archival material detailing Mr.Gibson's financial interests.

Source: Corporation of the District of Oak Bay

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements that defines the character of 1590 York Place include:
- massive size of the building
- white stucco walls and red tile roof
- five brick chimneys and six arched dormers
- stone foundation walls, connecting the house to the landscape
- quarry tile terrace on east side of house
- superlative interior spaces, including entry hall with Maclure trademark inglenook fireplace; drawing room with magnificent plasterwork; dining room; den; sunroom
- eleven working fireplaces and one 'blind' fireplace
- overall high quality finishing and detailing throughout the residence
- the setting of the house with unobstructed views
- original landscaping features: stone steps and rockeries, garden wall, and granite gate piers with wrought iron gates



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)

1956/01/01 to 1956/01/01
1914/01/01 to 1914/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design

Function - Category and Type


Single Dwelling


Multiple Dwelling

Architect / Designer

Birley and Simpson



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Corporation of the District of Oak Bay.

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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