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Heritage Register
Fairfield

900 Park Boulevard
Tweedsmuir Mansions

Built 1936
Heritage-Registered

For: Colin & Florence Forrest

Architect: William Jacobus Semeyn
Contractors: McCulloch & Harvey

900 Park Blvd

ARCHITECTURE:

This is Victoria’s finest example of “Art Deco” style. Dominating a corner site opposite Beacon Hill Park, the block is a slightly asymmetrical composition of geometric elements. As was usual with this building style, reflecting machine-age design principles of the 1930s, the clean abstract arrangement of horizontal and vertical planes is only briefly ornamented to accent the main entrance and establish the focal point of the composition. Many of the suites in this flat-roofed building have their own balconies. Recessed wooden stairs on the rear lead to garages.

It was built by McCulloch & Harvey at a cost of $23,000. William Jacobus Semeyn was for some time a partner of architect Karl Branwhite Spurgin, in Spurgin and Semeyn. William Semeyn was the name adopted by Baron von Einkhausen when he emigrated to Canada from Germany. He married Yvette Germaine Cross, a daughter of William Cross, a member of the syndicate that developed the Uplands.

ORIGINAL OCCUPANTS:

Colin (born England, 1886-1941) and Florence Forrest came to Victoria from Shanghai, China, in 1936 and immediately commissioned this landmark Art Deco apartment block. Its striking design and lavish scale made an impression during the Great Depression. The Forrests received permission from the Governor General of Canada to name the apartment block in his honour and so it became Tweedsmuir Mansions. The building was promoted as one of the most modern apartment buildings in Victoria. It originally included nine suites, some with their own street entrances, and with tiled bathrooms and oak floors. It was the first apartment building in the city with a penthouse, which became the new home of the Forrests.

Colin Murray Forrest died in 1941, two years after the couple had built The Royal Oak Inn at 4509 West Saanich Rd as an English-style tearoom. This was a success at first but the outbreak of war with rationing and other restrictions led to its sale. This house has been a succession of popular restaurants since the 1970s.

Florence M. Forrest continued as owner of Tweedsmuir Mansions until 1944. Later owners included William Thomas Henry, James Carlton Blaney and Rudolph C. Anderson.

OTHER OCCUPANTS:


A 1986 renovation included new stucco on the exterior and, because this was textured, it brought a protest from the Canadian Art Deco Society, which pointed out that “the Art Deco and Streamline Moderne styles relied on crisp, clean geometric lines to convey a sense of technological mastery.”

There were several interior alterations and renovations from 1988 onwards but no further changes to the exterior façades on Park Blvd and Heywood Av. A proposal from a new owner in 1988 would have added eight more suites but this project was unanimously rejected by city council.

Tweedsmuir Mansions was converted from rental to strata title in 1995 with upgrading at that time. A third storey addition on the west side provided more space for two of the suites.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION & IMAGES:

• Statement of Significance (Canadian Register of Historic Places)

• GIS Map of Victoria's Heritage Register Properties


• Fairfield History

• Fairfield Heritage Register

• Hallmark Heritage Society Archives

• This Old House, Victoria's Heritage Neighbourhoods,
Volume Four: Fairfield, Gonzales & Jubilee


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