Heritage Register

999 Burdett Avenue
Eastdon, then Burdette House wall & gates

Built 1890
Heritage-Designated wall, 2005

For: Dennis & Martha Harris

999 Burdett wall


The wall and gates are all that remain of a large mansion built here in 1890 and destroyed by fire in 1919.

On the Vancouver Street St façade, the wall is stepped, marching up the hill. Here, it comprises base, parapet, cap and posts. The cap consists of a “tent” of two diagonal bricks to shed water, topped with a single flat brick (instead of more-expensive coping stone blocks). The bricks, on a rubble foundation, are laid in a variation of the “English garden wall bond” style, with every fifth row laid end-on. On the more important Burdett St aspect, the wall is much lower, with wrought-iron railings (to permit a full view of the house) and a continuous double-tapered cap of cement, punctuated by ornate gate-posts. In places, the wall stands 10 feet high, and the pillars are nearly as tall, with pyramidal caps and handsome wrought-iron railings and gates.


Dennis Harris (b. Winchester, UK - Victoria 1932) was employed for a time on CPR construction. In 1878 he married Martha Douglas, youngest daughter of Sir James Douglas, and then set up in business as a surveyor, civil engineer, architect and real estate agent. Harris later became Victoria City Engineer; he also served on council and the school board. The couple lived with the widowed Lady Amelia Douglas until they built a large house at this site in 1890. It was named after the Harris family home in Devonshire, England. The Harrises lived here for 8-9 years and then moved to 601 Superior St, (James Bay) where they remained until their deaths, in 1932 and 1933. Eastdon was home to the Collegiate School from 1900-02. From c.1903-12 it was Walter & Katherine Finch-Page’s Burdette House. Walter Page (c.1842-1925) was born in Yarmouth, Norfolk, England.


From c.1913-17 Burdette House was a boarding house and nurses’ home. It was a quarantine hospital during the 1918 influenza pandemic, then destroyed by fire in June 1919. The site remained empty, except for the wall and gates, for decades.

The Sisters of St Ann eventually bought the property and, in 1940, the original Mount St. Mary was built there. Designed by provincial Chief Architect Henry Whittaker, Mount St. Mary was used, initially, for the care of convalescent patients from St. Joseph’s Hospital. It later became a nursing home.

By 1997, the building was in need of renovation and up-grading. This was considered to be too expensive and a decision was made to sell the property and build a new nursing home on Fairfield Rd. A group of heritage protection advocates named “The Mount St Mary Rescue Coalition” tried to save the building but were unsuccessful and, in 2003, the demolition went ahead. However, a heritage designation required the developer to preserve the wall and gates. So it is that, once again, a brand new building is given status by “The Wall” - a unique and highly valued heritage structure.

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