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Heritage Register
Fernwood

1459 Vining Street (ex-23 Milne St)

Built 1891; 1918
Heritage-Designated 1989

For: Thomas & Jessie E. Donovan

1459 Vining

ARCHITECTURE:

This is Victoria’s finest surviving brick residence and its best masonry example of Queen Anne. It is two-storey and hip-roofed with a front facing gable and wooden brackets under the eaves. The main hip is steep and flared, with a half-hipped gable over a rear wing. The wing has a wooden entry porch and is shingled on the upper floor. On the right side is a full-height, flared, hip-roofed bay. A balcony on the upper floor sits above a box bay. The roof of the front gable is flared and there are returns on the bargeboards. There is a diamond-shaped ornament in the apex above a Romanesque arch made up of voussoirs. The arch rests on two pilasters which separate the windows of the upper cutaway bay. There are corbelled brick brackets beside the outside windows. A wide beltcourse extends from the left front around the right side to the box bay. The front of the beltcourse is ornately patterned, and separates the upper and lower cutaway bays. There are voussoirs and a keystone decorating the lintel above the central window of the lower bay. The window has a stained glass transom. There is an inset porch on the lower left front corner with two Classical columns connected to the walls by an unusual series of rings. There are two intricately corbelled chimneys. Typical of Queen Anne is the variety of surface treatment, eg: diagonal brickwork, masonry interposed in the brickwork, and the use of wood at the rear. The masonry posts, wall and iron railings at the front of the property are original.

ORIGINAL OCCUPANTS:

1895-1926: Thomas Donovan (b. Newport, WAL, 1866-1913), a bricklayer, bought the land in 1895, and was living in the house by 1897, although he didn’t finish it until 1901. Thomas came to Victoria in 1891, when he was the sole Welshman boarding with nine Scots, three of them carpenters. In 1895 Bishop Cridge married Thomas, a Catholic, to Jessie (Jessey) Elizabeth Terry (1874-1973), an Episcopalian from Toronto who came here in 1884 with her parents John (another bricklayer) and Annie Terry (1400 Pembroke St, Fernwood). Thomas Donovan was a contractor, and foreman on many City of Victoria construction projects, including the Inner Harbour Causeway across James Bay mud flats in 1903-05, Smith’s Hill Reservoir in 1908-09, cement sidewalks and many streets. He was a founding member of the Victoria Young Men’s Liberal Club in 1903 and on the executive committee for several years. Thomas was killed when his hunting shack at Elk Lake burned at midnight. He was seen returning to the shack after dusk, but was identified only by his gun, knife, watch, and belt buckle in the ruins.

Jessie was left with seven children aged four to 18. She still lived in the house in 1926 with her daughter Eva, an assistant at The Photorium, and son Frederick Clarence Terry (1905-1980) a mechanic at Victoria Auto Livery. Fred later became a loftsman at the shipyard. Jessie and Thomas’s other offspring: Maud Margaret; Iris Lilian by 1951 was proprietor of the Marianne Beauty Shop; Irene Iris, a housekeeper until her marriage; Jessie Winifred; Cornelius Donovan, a shingler, worked for many years at VMD. Their mother Jessie outlived her husband by 60 years and died at age 99.

OTHER OCCUPANTS:

1928-29: Llewellyn and Hannah Florence Overton. Llewellyn was a druggist with F.J. Williams Drug Store (724 Linden Av, Fairfield). Living with them were their daughter Margaret and son William, a dental mechanic with Arthur J. Garesche.

1930-35: Bruce Alistair “Pinkie” McKelvie (b. Vancouver, 1889-1960), managing editor of Victoria Daily Colonist for seven years, and Lillian Kate (née Allen, b.1898). Pinkie was given his nickname by a fellow reporter when he was young, plump and pink-cheeked. He and his brother Archibald J. “Spook” McKelvie became police reporters in Vancouver in the days when they were licensed to carry revolvers themselves. He later covered politicians, mine disasters and earned an international reputation for his stories on the misdeeds of religious cultist Brother XII. Pinkie also worked for the British and Canadian secret services. He lobbied for heritage status of the Petroglyph site near Nanaimo, wrote books on BC history, and was president of the BC Historical Association and grand factor of the Native Sons of BC. He was a champion of BC Natives: the Sliamons made him an honourary chief. Pinkie McKelvie was buried in St. Johns Churchyard in Cobble Hill, where he’d lived many years.

1937: James Edgar and Isabella Hamilton married in Nanaimo in 1910; James was a miner. In 1937 their son William was a “swamper” at Spencer’s, son Ian a baker, and daughter Catherine a musician.

1938-42: Charles Clifton Perry (b. Tiverton, Devon, ENG, 1883-1955) and Catherine Jane (née Manson, b. Nanaimo, 1882-1943) married in Nanaimo in 1910. Charles, an Indian Agent, retired as Assistant Commissioner for Indian Affairs in 1936. Their family: Thomas L. was a deliveryman for M.H. Barry, groceries & meats, 1784 Fort St. Violet was a legal stenographer with Clearihue Straith & Ruttan. Albert W. was a student at Victoria College, in Craigdarroch Castle (1050 Joan Cr, Rockland).

1943-45: Clarence Melvin Angus (b. Manitoba, 1898-1969), an improver at Yarrows shipyards, and Jean Laurel (née Fleming, b. Miniota, MB, 1901-1981) moved to Esquimalt for their last decades.
1946-51: Bessie Levin (née Haberman, b. Lubin, Poland, 1887-1972), the widow of George Levin.

1964-2012: The house was duplexed at some point, but turned back into a single-family dwelling by John Kenneth Patrick (b. Regina, SK, 1929-1981) and his wife Elizabeth “Bette” (Bond). Bette was born in Victoria in 1939 and was married here in 1958. John was an insurance consultant. Bette has now owned the house for 48 years, and her business the Fan Tan Gallery since 1973.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION & IMAGES:


• Statement of Significance (Historic Places Canadian Register)

• Fernwood History

• Fernwood Heritage Register

• Hallmark Heritage Society Archives

• This Old House, Victoria's Heritage Neighbourhoods,
Volume One: Fernwood & Victoria West


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