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Heritage Register
Jubilee

1731 Albert Avenue
(ex-1712 Denman St; North St; William St)
Rosedale

Built 1898
Heritage-Designated 2012

For: George Marsden

1731 Albert

ARCHITECTURE:

The front is the back, and the back is the front. The best way to view this once grand residence is from Denman Street, using considerable imagination. From here, one may catch a glimpse of what historical writer James Nesbitt once called, “Victoria’s only twin-spire mansion, a gingerbread beauty if there ever was one, a house that looked like a spun sugar decoration on the wedding confection of a millionaire’s daughter.”

1731 Albert c.1906

George Marsden (1841-1929) first appears in the 1891 Census as a letter-carrier living as a boarder in a house described as a “shanty” on Yates St. He seems to have built a cabin on this property in 1896 or 1897, according to assessments, but in 1898–by then a news agent and tobacconist downtown—he built the surviving extravaganza, at the rear of the double lot facing what is now Denman St. The building permit lists it as $2,000 to build. Even then, it must have seemed old-fashioned and excessive, and although he remained here until 1908, and the spires show in a 1913 advertisement, the amazing tapered towers were apparently removed by the new owner soon after. (Water-proofing and re-roofing the spires with their fish-scale and diamond shingles would have been hugely expensive!)

The 1½-storey house has a simple hipped roof with dormers on all four sides and two 2-storey octagonal towers. Much of the original decoration was removed when the house was stuccoed, and paint shadows for the missing elements were revealed when a team of heritage volunteers helped remove half of the stucco in 1989. However, some of the bargeboards retain unusually ornate fretted appliqué work. Although the grand staircase is missing from the original front entrance, some of the pre-stucco detail has been replaced or liberated: By the 1960s, the front porch had been boxed in and the tower windows reduced in size. The Queen Anne glass in the segmentally-arched windows is original, as are the turned columns and baluster railings, and the lion’s head above the arched porch. But many other details –notably about a dozen finials, and perhaps 100 brackets and modillions—are gone. A box-bay on the east side has had its windows partly covered up, and several stained-glass windows and doors have disappeared.

On the north (Albert St) side of the house, a full-width balcony and flared stairs have been built to transform this façade into the “front.” The original drop-siding can be seen, above a replacement brick foundation.

Much of Denman St was developed during the Pre-WWI boom by the Revercomb family, and other bungalows have subsequently been in-filled, cutting the streetscape off from the original majestic aspect of Rose Dale. So the “spun sugar” story-book house will likely never be restored to its former glory, but much work is needed just to maintain it.

ORIGINAL OCCUPANTS:

Born in Birmingham, England, George Marsden came to BC from San Francisco. According to the 1901 census he was married but by 1911 he was listed as a widower. By 1908 he was a gardener at the Parliament Buildings. (Marsden was an active man-about-town. The Colonist mentions him in 1899 among “a number of leading and most influential residents.” He owned at least six lots, but possibly lost some in a tax sale in 1904.) According to his obituary he was later employed at the Provincial Museum for a number of years until he retired. George lived here until 1908.

OTHER OCCUPANTS:

By 1910, John Johnston was living here and in 1912-13, John Graham, retired, was the occupant. William H. Raymond lived here in 1914. The house was vacant for the next several years. Charles Guy lived here in 1920 and Mrs Mener was here in 1921. The Hodson family moved in in the following year, and lived here until c.1930. Edward Tessier Hodson (1874-1924) was born in Clapham, England, and came to Canada in 1921. He was buried with full military honours. His wife Isabel lived here for several years after his death.

Owners Charles Clifton (1882-1955) and Catherine Jane (Manson, 1882-1943) Perry lived here c.1930-32. Born in Tiverton, England, Charles came to BC in 1908 and settled in Nanaimo, where he married Catherine in 1910. They moved to Victoria in 1929. Charles was Assistant Indian Commissioner for the federal department of Indian Affairs for nearly 30 years. He retired in 1936.


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION & IMAGES:


• Map of Victoria's Heritage Register Properties

• Jubilee History

• Jubilee Heritage Register

• Hallmark Heritage Society Archives

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


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