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Heritage Register
Harris Green

1030 Cook Street
October Mansion

Built 1909-10
Heritage-Designated 2012

For: Albert Todd for his wife Ada

Architect/Contractor: George Charles Mesher & Co

1030 Cook

ARCHITECTURE:

October Mansion was designed and built as a 90-room apartment block by George C. Mesher & Co. The landmark building has frontage on three streets, Fort, Cook and Meares, with the main entrance on Cook St. This Edwardian brick apartment building has a full basement and eight suites on each of three floors. The ceiling height on all four floors is nine feet. There were originally two, three and four room apartments in this 24-suite building. Each apartment had its own bathroom; kitchens were counted as one of the rooms. Each bedroom had a closet and an alcove recess for a bed. Each living room had a built-in sideboard, and a recessed alcove. The kitchens had large built-in cabinets, store cupboards, meat safes with special coolers, gas stoves, sinks and china closets. The kitchen and bathroom floors were similarly tiled.

There are paired brackets in the cornice at the roof line and a dentil course above the first floor. The upper two levels have oriel angled bays on all four corners and on either side of the main entrance. Paired and single windows, originally all double-hung sashes, have been changed to modern single panes, with awning sashes in each suite. The headers of the first and third floor windows are part of the belt course and the frieze, respectively. There are heavy lintels above the windows of the second floor between the bays. The three upper floors are clad in a pattern of red and grey bricks. The basement foundation is of rusticated and coursed stone, with the original four-light casement windows. The centrally-located recessed main entrance has a marble stairway leading to the main floor. The ceiling and walls are board-and-batten above white sanitary tile. The front door has sidelights, with “October Mansion” in large gold lettering on the transom above.

According to the plans, the basement contained: cards/dining room, social hall, dressing room, kitchen, toilet and children’s room for residents’ entertainment; janitor’s living quarters, which included living room, bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and toilet; laundry and drying room, trunk room, boiler room, fuel storage room, fuel chute and meter room. There were central stairs, an elevator and hall, flanked by two large light wells. The final cost of construction was over $39,000.

A 1910 photo of the building shows both the Fort St and Cook St streetcar lines and the cluster lights outside on Fort St. These lights, installed in many parts of downtown, were recommended to the city by Bert Todd, who had seen similar ones in Dresden, Germany.

George C. Mesher (b. UK 1860-1938) arrived in Victoria in 1886 just as a building boom started. He and his father carried out many important projects over the following years including the rectory at Christ Church Cathedral and several Rockland mansions. They worked with architects Samuel Maclure and W. Ridgway-Wilson among others.

ORIGINAL OCCUPANTS:

October Mansion is so-called because Albert Edward “Bert” Todd (b. Victoria 1878-1928) and Ada Beatrice Elvira Seabrook became engaged in October 1909. Bert purchased the land for $9,000 and commissioned the building as an engagement present for Ada, so she would always have independent income. Bert and Ada were married in March 1910 in Los Angeles, where Ada had moved with her family. Their honeymoon was spent touring by car, which was quite an adventure at the time, but insisted upon by Bert, who loved cars and the travel opportunities they provided. The couple first went south to Mexico, then north again, taking the new Pacific coast road. When they returned to Victoria, Bert and Ada moved into their new residence at 721 Linden Av, Rockland, also designed and built for them by George C. Mesher & Co. There the Todds raised their two sons Joe and Dick.

October Mansion remained the property of Ada until her death aged 77 in 1968, when it passed to Joe and Dick. They continued to own it into the late 1980s, although they both lived in the USA. Ownership eventually passed to Ada’s grandchildren.

OTHER OCCUPANTS:


This building seems to attract long-term tenants. One woman lived there for her entire adult life and, so it is said, almost never went out. The building has changed very little in its exterior appearance over the years. Inside, the original spiral staircase in the centre of the hall was replaced with two staircases, for fire safety reasons. A rental advertisement in 2013 lists original features including hardwood floors, built-in buffet and a claw-foot tub in the bathroom, indicating that the building is a heritage gem,
both inside and out.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION & IMAGES:

• Map of Victoria Heritage Register Properties

• Harris Green History

• Harris Green Heritage Register

• Hallmark Heritage Society Archives

• This Old House, Victoria's Heritage Neighbourhoods,
Volume Three: Rockland, Burnside, Harris Green,
Hillside-Quadra, North Park & Oaklands


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