Monday, January 10, 2022

Victoria's Colonial Bungalow Fling (1)


"The colonial bungalow, identified by its extensive perimeter verandahs, dominant hipped roof, and low-slung horizontal form would have been familiar to any British colonist who had spent time in India or the Pacific possessions where it had become the standard expatriate house type."

  Martin Segger, The Buildings of Samuel Maclure



A tasteful colonial bungalow at the style's apogee: drop siding, classical details, chamfered timbers

Victoria's ongoing love affair with the house-type known as the colonial bungalow began early in the city's history, not long after the original Hudson's Bay Company fort (built in 1843) morphed into the Colony of Vancouver Island (1849) and the city-proper emerged from nowhere in response to gold's discovery in the Fraser Valley in 1857. The discovery of gold on the Fraser also instigated creation of the Colony of British Columbia, to better safeguard British claims to the territory against the expected onrush of prospectors, many of whom were Americans. If the ensuing gold rush caused Victoria's population to swell quickly as thousands of miners outfitted and provisioned themselves here, new business opportunities were afforded to merchants purveying goods and supplies. Within this dynamic of sudden growth and newfound wealth an architectural form appeared that would have been familiar to any residents of British imperial background, taking the shape of the hipped roof and other characteristics associated with the Anglo-Indian bungalow. As the opening quote suggests, this colonial-type bungalow would have been recognizable to anyone who had lived previously in a British Pacific colony. Bungalows like these were low-lying, single storey affairs, often with somewhat over-scaled roofs, and typically equipped with verandahs that gave them a distinctive look. This sort of bungalow first emerged in India, where a rural Bengali house-type was adapted to meet the needs and expectations of Britain's colonial administrators and military brass. Curiously shaped versions of a relatively obscure native dwelling-type (the chauyari, according to Michael Kluckner, originally with a pyramidal roof of thatched material), they eventually leapt in much-modified form from India to Britain's other Pacific colonies, arriving in Australia early in the nineteenth century. The oldest surviving example there, Elizabeth Farm, was given the distinctive form of an Anglo-Indian bungalow in the early 1800s. It remains celebrated today as an exemplar of colonial housing in early Australia, influenced directly by the British experience in India and likely prompted by the presence of military figures in the newfound colony. 


This same characteristic hipped roof also appeared unexpectedly in the burgeoning Colony of Vancouver Island, embodied in the features defining the look of the colony's first legislative buildings, begun in 1859. Its appearance in Victoria is perhaps unsurprising in light of the British fascination with the bungalow's unique mix of exotic and practical features, or the desire of the colony's governors to establish it as a British possession. Victoria quickly became home to many professionals of British origin, attracted to the colony by the opportunity to prosper if possessed of the right types of skills. These surveyor-engineer-architect types would also be joined by other expatriates, such as retired colonial administrators or military men, who might be drawn to a colonial outpost by the prospects of genteel living in a paradisial spot. All of which added up, over time, to there being a receptive local audience for architectural versions of this imported, exotic building type. The following essay examines the influence of three local architects whose professional work involved designs for specific clients that served to indigenize the colonial bungalow in these parts - the first of these clients being the Colony of Vancouver Island itself, headquartered in what became the City of Victoria in 1862. 


1. Herman Otto Tiedemann

The cluster of hip-roofed administrative buildings designed by H.O. Tiedemann, shown circa 1866



Looking across the James Bay bridge towards the bungalow-roofed legislative cluster, ca 1874


Early indications of the colonial bungalow enjoying cachet in Victoria took the form of the distinctive hipped roofs capping the colony's first cluster of legislative buildings (pictured above), known formally as the Colonial Administration Buildings. This cluster, designed by German-trained architect and engineer H. O. Tiedemann, was constructed starting in 1858, the year word of gold's discovery on the Fraser River began enticing hordes of would-be miners from around the globe to these parts. Financed with monies derived from the astute sale of suddenly valuable downtown lands (orchestrated by the colony's first governor, James Douglas) the new buildings were intended to tie the future legislature more closely to the evolving city by bridging the mudflats of James Bay (coincidentally providing Douglas himself with a more direct route to his home on the other side of the bay). There is an element of conjuring about this early civic cluster, appearing as it did just in time to transmit a sense of settled authority governing the territory (to some extent this was a sleight of hand). But what seems truly curious here is that an architect who trained outside the British imperial tradition would wind up adopting colonial bungalow features as the integrating element for his designs. The resulting 'curious' confections, likened to "Italian-villa fancy birdcages" by the Victoria Gazette, were initially given a rather rough ride for their eclecticism (sitting poorly, for example, with the clamorous Amor de Cosmos, a future Premier of British Columbia who dismissed them contemptuously as "something between a Dutch toy and a Chinese pagoda").


And yet, over time, the Birdcages (as they were popularly known) would come to be regarded more fondly by the general public, perhaps as maturing grounds elevated their quaint charm in the dramatic setting of Victoria's harbour, with its mountain and ocean backdrop. Architectural historian Martin Segger, in his masterful The Buildings of Samuel Maclure (In Search Of Appropriate Form) takes these distinctively hipped roofs and other bungalow features (placement on a low podium set close to the ground plane, furnished with ample verandahs) as indicating an underlying resonance of the colonial bungalow building form. This should not surprise us in what was, at the professional level at least, a very British colony. One distinctive feature of the Tiedemann designs was the manner in which he lifted his hip roofs by breaking and raising the tail of the rafters. Architecturally, this extra lift along the hip rafters enables the roof to be run further out over a building's walls, emphasizing its sheltering quality while accommodating the verandahs typically tucked in under it. The lifting of the roof-line was an early instance of a feature that would one day become definitional for the building when it was widely constructed around Victoria: a distinctively bell-cast hip roof. What happened over time was that this original defining lift in the roof angle migrated further and further along the hip rafter. Lifting the tail of a hip roof was common in historic instances of this building type as it came to be built outside of India (cf inset photo below of Elizabeth Farm in New South Wales, Australia, where the hip roof has a distinct uplift (or 'broken pitch' in Australian parlance) as it descends from the ridge line.

Early Australian colonial bungalow with bell-cast roof

But this was not always and everywhere the case. Colonial bungalows could also be designed without any such lift to the hip rafter,  a choice of treatment reflecting more faithfully the native Indian practice of using thatch as a roofing material, piled deep in order to repel rains - resulting in both an amplification of roof volume and a singular look. Forty years on, Tiedemann's choice of a lift in his hip roof would be echoed (if rather more gracefully) by domestic architect Samuel Maclure. Alternatively, John Gerhard Tiarks, another local designer of colonial bungalows working in the late 1890s, preferred hip rafters with an unbroken pitch, leading to a different overall effect. Ultimately, the dominant trend locally would be to adopt a lifted hip, flared near the eaves so as to project more boldly over the walls. Tiedemann certainly got things rolling with his eclectic designs for the colony's first administration buildings. A number of authors see this representation of the colonial bungalow roof-line as a more-or-less conscious shaping of space to be recognizable to British eyes, especially for those with colonial experience elsewhere.

Hipped roofs, deliberately lifted out over the walls, for a sheltering look to these bungalows

Other authors writing about the Birdcages also recognize the colonial bungalow's familiarity of shape to, and underlying popularity with, the initially small audience of expatriate Brits comprising Victoria's professional class. As an example of this, a brochure entitled Discover Your Legislature, published by the office of The Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, situates the building cluster as follows: "Tiedemann took his inspiration for the Birdcages from a 'colonial bungalow' design that originated out of British-occupied India and combined it with European influences, such as those mentioned in the newspapers as being stylized after a Swiss-cottage and Italian-villa..."


Long after Rattenbury's grand essay in stone landed, vestiges of the original Birdcages persist


Robert Ratcliffe Taylor, author of a recent history of the process of building the Birdcages and of the momentous legislative choices eventually made in their precincts, reinforces the idea that the colonial bungalow was recognizable to Victorians with prior experience of the India-Pacific region. In a recent essay in the Ormsby Review (and well worth

Fort Victoria, from Wharf, in 1861: close ties?

absorbing) entitled "The Mysterious and Difficult Hermann Otto Tiedemann," Taylor suggests that the legislative cluster's "hipped, bell-cast roofs, projecting eaves and fretted vergeboards did indeed give them an unusual, almost 'Oriental' appearance... Moreover, their ground-hugging, wide-verandahed appearance echoed the bungalows of British India, which already had close ties with Victoria." Consider the inset photo (right) showing Fort Victoria seen from Wharf Street in 1861, for one indication of a possible source of such early 'close ties' with Victoria.


With landscape now maturing around them, the Birdcages relax more into their striking setting


2. John Gerhard Tiarks

While it would be fascinating to know more about the colonial bungalow's history during the era of the Birdcages (roughly 1859 - 1898), what is known with certainty is that, from the late 1890s on (with a return to booming economic conditions and more-sustained population growth) there was a definite market for architect-designed variants of this house type, for use chiefly as year-round residences. The remarkable, if lamentably brief, career of architect John Gerhard Tiarks (who died suddenly after a bicycle fall in 1901, aged 34) demonstrates this in spades. The English-trained Tiarks moved to Victoria in 1888, where he enjoyed an immediate success designing residences, often executing his projects 'on spec' (meaning, building them on land he had purchased, using his own designs, overseeing construction, and then selling them to willing buyers - an early version of what became 'the housing market'). Despite a career lasting a mere 13 years, Tiarks was busy designing over 75 buildings in the Victoria area! Later he launched himself further in residential real estate, partnering with rising star Francis Mawson Rattenbury on the purchase of some prime acreage in then-undeveloped Oak Bay. These attractive holdings were once part of what was known as the Pemberton estate (J. D. Pemberton was Crown Surveyor in the colony, having worked previously for the Hudson's Bay Company from 1851; he was a talented man, part explorer and part skilled mapper, who laid out the townsite for the City of Victoria and the suburb of James Bay, so positioning himself to get in on the ground floor in local real estate). A portion of the 15 acres of land acquired by the duo came with ocean shoreline, which went to Rattenbury for the purpose of building his family home (Lechinihl - today part of Glenlyon Norfolk school); other parts were developed and marketed in parcels with estate-like design controls. In 1898, Tiarks created a remarkable colonial bungalow at 1512 Beach Drive on a parcel of these lands, for Arthur and Matilda Haynes, which still stands today. This classy early colonial bungalow has many of the features that we see reappearing as standard treatments in the more-popular but later California bungalow era.



Dormers, verandah, a modest elegance with a highly textured and unusual wall treatment


A stone foundation and low verandah railings impart rustic and informal notes to this house


In what was his signature treatment, Tiarks chose not to lift the edges on his hip roofs, preferring instead a long, straight rafter line emphasizing roof volume. As noted above, this roof treatment was closer to the Anglo-Indian bungalow as widely built in India (see inset photo, below right, of a bungalow in India with a thatched hip roof for the general idea). Interestingly, even at this early date, Tiarks is setting dormers into the house's roof in order to achieve modest spatial gains (thereby anticipating the California bungalow's tendency to exploit the attic space while avoiding the effect of a full two-storey house). Also, at the Haynes house above, he gives the verandah a separate roof, projected at a less steep angle than the main roof (so imparting a sense of lift). Eastholme (photo below) was another Tiarks design, at 1580 Beach Drive in

Englishman and bungalow: note the classic roof of thatch

Oak Bay, this time for Herbert F. Hewett, built in 1899. The building continued here until 1992, when it was relocated to Salt Spring Island in order to make way for the more grandiose offering now gracing its site. Eastholme is a somewhat plainer and less-complicated affair than the Haynes bungalow, as shown by the absence of dormers in its roof, as well as by the more economic recessing of the verandah entryway under the principal roof form. It was nevertheless another example of an early colonial bungalow in Victoria, with a definite cottage-like charm (again, consider the similarities with the inset photo to the right above, from LIFE magazine, pre-1947).


Eastholme, designed by J. G. Tiarks for H. F. Hewett in 1899, now removed to Saltspring Island

Tiarks also designed a pair of enormous colonial bungalows in 1898 (seven thousand-plus square feet each!) situated on some prestigious holdings off York Place in Oak Bay, for a pair of well-heeled solicitors who were partners in a Victoria law firm. Both had previously sampled high office in successful political careers in other parts of the country. One of these twin bungalows, named Annandale (inset, below right), was for Sir Charles Hibbert Tupper, once a Justice Minister in the Dominion government and a relative of Sir Charles Tupper, one of the fathers of Confederation; the other bungalow, known as Garrison House, was for the Honourable Frederick Peters, a former Premier and Attorney-general for Prince

Edward Island. These gargantuan buildings came with massive, distinctively hipped roofs. Both also came equipped with all the mod cons of the day, including electricity, then a comparative novelty in residential settings. Both buildings would go on to enjoy notoriety in what quickly became the thriving municipality of Oak Bay: Annandale was famous for the long list of serious nobs who visited and were entertained there; Garrison House suffered an early conversion to institutional use, followed by an untimely and total loss to fire in 1932. The Tupper house still stands at York Place, now divided into suites (as are many grandiose residences of the era) rather under-maintained in exterior appearance, and now largely obscured from public view by a dense vegetative screen. The picture below shows the two bungalows shortly after the building process completed (from COVArchives, Rattenbury Fonds).


Annandale (nearest) and Garrison House, shown shortly after their construction in 1898


Some observations on Tiarks' styling of these gigantic colonial bungalows: a sharply rising hip roof architecturally dramatizing roof volume was obviously his design preference. This feature suggests that his interpretations of the colonial bungalow did not factor into the achievement of its standard form (ie. the one most widely built in its construction heyday, which saw it most often delivered with a bell-cast roof and dormers styled to echo the main roof's form). Tiarks intended the verandahs on these buildings to have a significant presence, making them into a central feature that defines their look and wrapping them around three sides of the building. Here they effect a transition between the building and its surroundings, capturing views of environmental features from within a substantial space that is sheltered from the elements. Verandahs were entirely practical in Victoria's unusual wet-dry climate, building on their traditional use in the Anglo-Indian bungalow where they provided relief from both intense heat and heavy seasonal rains. Another function they serve, similarly arising from lived experience in India, was their potential for use as a social mixing space in what was in effect a sequence of roofed outdoor rooms. This transitional zone adds a certain exoticism to the overall bungalow experience, lending informality to a novel physical space that simultaneously provides sheltered entry to the residence. Tiarks clearly intends these verandahs to play a key role in defining the overall look, once again tucking them under a separate roof form that angles into the main roof plane. 



Annandale, circa 1959, still showing much of the original conception (COVArchives)


To my eye however, there are residual Victorian elements to Tiarks' design of this bungalow couplet, one example of which is the trio of contrasting dormers set into his massive hipped roofs. It's almost as if decorative variety were the goal rather than the arts-and-crafts objective of achieving a more fully integrated outcome. Looking at photo two of Annandale (above) we observe that each dormer is treated entirely differently from its mates: the largest of the three (furthest to the right) sports a gable roof with its tips buried within the main roof; notionally it seems in sync with the dominant roof form, yet somehow it is not quite, to my eye at least, an architectural synthesis. By contrast, the middle dormer is a long, narrow, shed-roofed affair, terminating in two relatively small windows. To me, this dormer feels dwarfed by the vast expanse of roof it springs from. Sharpening this contrast even further, the third dormer (on the left), is also gable roofed but this time with the tips exposed and the gable decorated, contributing to a confusion of shapes and treatments lacking any inherent relationship to one another.



The Weiler brothers' colonial bungalow by J. G. Tiarks, an exclusive rental with stunning views

Tiarks' designs may not have anticipated the ultimate form colonial bungalows would assume locally, but his success as an architect with an interest in the idiom reinforces the notion that there was underlying demand for this look of house in Victoria near the turn of the twentieth century. The colonial bungalow appealed broadly to people of British extraction: from mustered-out colonial administrators seeking quiet enjoyment of a peaceful setting, to retired officers looking for the trappings of wealth at a good price, and it included an emergent group of successful local business and professional families aspiring to own a residence expressing status, modernity, and a definite connection to the glories of empire. Buildings such as these might be custom-designed for specific well-heeled clients (like the York Place couplet or the singletons located on Beach Drive) but they could also be designed 'on spec' for the market or custom-built for investors looking to offer rental accommodation that might attract a moderately well-heeled demographic wanting access to safe, temperate Victoria. The city was, after all, by this point successfully marketing itself

as a tourism destination (see photo of brochure, right, dated 1909: - No hot summers; No hard winters). And of course, over time, with even only modest population growth, a premium location with a desirable, contemporary colonial bungalow for rent would likely more than repay the initial outlay on building and land. The fourth Tiarks' colonial bungalow, pictured above, was designed in 1897 for Joseph and Charles Weiler (scions of successful local merchant John Weiler) who were conceivably looking for practical ways to consolidate family wealth, in this instance as a rental in an enviable location on Dallas Road, with views across the majestic straits of Juan de Fuca to the Olympic Mountains. I'm sure there was a market for it! 



3. Samuel Maclure


A further indication of ongoing local demand for this specialized building type is revealed in the practice of residential architect Samuel Maclure, who created a stream of innovative colonial bungalow designs that proved highly popular in Victoria. In 1899, Maclure declared his interest by designing a novel colonial bungalow to house his own family, located on Superior Street (newspaper photo above) just around the corner from Rattenbury's new Legislative Assembly building. Immediately popular in Victoria (Segger calls it "an instant success") this noteworthy reworking of the house-type would serve as a 'calling card' for Maclure's new professional practice. The architect's reputation was further amplified when publications like Victoria Homes (a local newspaper feature aimed in part at tourists) repeatedly ran pictures of it as proof of the underlying originality of local architecture. This newfound notoriety led to additional commissions for similar structures, which in some instances were fairly literal reprises of the original building. Over the ensuing years, however, Maclure continued to evolve his approach to the colonial bungalow form, varying his treatments in order to demonstrate design-originality. Maclure's family home ("a gracefully understated design") and the followup colonial bungalows also furnished local contractors with models that any number were quick to copy, building their own 'interpretations' for a rapidly expanding housing market (and equally typically, losing some of Maclure's finesse along the way). In this manner, Maclure's early innovations may have played a formative role in achieving the building's paradigmatic form.

Segger offers the following on Maclure's approach to the styling of domestic architecture:  "Specializing in small house design Maclure was also searching for a distinctive personal style with a uniquely regional flavour....Maclure's immediate inspiration was local. Drawing on the most prestigious standing structures (the Georgian style HBC [Hudson's Bay Company] buildings and colonial bungalow forms of the old government buildings the 'Birdcages') he quickly forged a highly original residential type. The meticulously designed but rather unostentatious hipped-roof and shingle-clad bungalows became a familiar part of the urban landscape." Segger also notes that Maclure's family home galvanized demand for buildings of this type: "revolutionary but traditional, its startling fresh design was to be the prototype for a long line of smaller houses wherein even replicas of the architect's were both demanded and occasionally supplied with few modifications." 


A good example of this pulse in demand for structures on this new model of colonial bungalow is Arden (pictured below, COVArchives) erected at 1176 Beach Drive in 1902, for Ada and Hugo Beaven (son of former BC Premier Robert Beaven). This very handsomely detailed colonial bungalow was unfortunately demolished, a fate that sadly also befell the Maclure family bungalow.


Arden, looking smart, surrounded by mature landscaping - a fixture on Beach Drive (ca 1930)


Indeed, so popular were these new colonial bungalows that local builders and architects were keenly interested in supplying their own versions of what they referred to as 'the Maclure bungalow'. These early examples of Maclure's handiwork developed new expectations of what could be done with a modest but artistic, cozy yet modern home. Among Arden's outstanding features is its finely proportioned hip roof, gracefully flared near the edges, rendering it into an elegantly bell-cast shape that emphasizes its sheltering effect (all features that would come to typify the mature form of the building). Also noteworthy is the recessed entry verandah, a frequent Maclure feature, providing shelter from the elements and adding to the overall feeling of coziness combined with stylistic elegance. Another fine feature is the proportioning and placement of the front dormer, floating decoratively in the main roof space, echoing the bell-cast hip of the main roof form. There is also a conservatory-style pavilion to the left, advancing into the maturely landscaped setting while sitting securely under its own stylish hipped roof. Here at Arden, the garden conservatory functions as a windowed sun room, while at the Maclure family home it manifests as a true verandah, which apart from being roofed is otherwise open to the elements. Arden, like the Maclure family home, is a resoundingly horizontal building (befitting a bungalow in an outer suburban, then-country setting) set close enough to the ground plane to emphasize that very quality. This sharpens the contrast with the more vertical Victorian-era houses that are typical of the more closely packed inner suburbs nestled against Victoria's downtown. There is also little of the tacked-on ornament characteristic of so many Queen Anne-style houses of the high Victorian era (although, if you look closely, Maclure's personal enthusiasm for finials is evident). In those days, arts-and-crafts architects studiously avoided the Victorian embrace of architectural doodads, preferring instead to emphasize features like local materials for wall texture, decorative expression of the building's structure, and above all, refined proportioning of the building's masses. Arden is a colonial bungalow built in an emerging and pretty suburb that remains rural, with gardened grounds fringed by a mature treed landscape - the building feels nestled-into its surroundings, in a comfortable manner, crowning its slight rise.



132 Dallas Road, c. 1974, probable contractor's version of the Maclure colonial bungalow

The photo above shows what is likely a builder's version of 'the Maclure bungalow' (COVArchives). Signs that this wasn't Maclure's own handiwork include the building's stucco exterior, the over-steep and concreted front steps (Maclure preferred wooden steps and landings in a graceful sequence), a general coarsening of building features in order presumably to keep costs down, and a telling absence of finials! While there was demand for any number of such builder versions of Maclure's radically restyled colonial bungalow, there was also plenty of demand for the real article - and even a little from out-of-country, in at least one area of the Pacific Northwest. An example of this is the Ramsay House (insert, right) constructed in Ellensburg, Washington in 1905, for a wealthy couple who had recognized Maclure's artistic talents while vacationing in Victoria; able to review examples of his work firsthand, they convinced themselves he simply had to become the architect of their family home. The Ramseys commissioned him to design a unique variant of the colonial bungalow, which here presents an early instance of Maclure deploying a straightened version of the hip roof with no perceptible lift at the edges (a feature repeated for the roof on the front dormer). And while a conservatory bay projects into the garden at the left of the photo, in this instance a second, preponderant wing runs perpendicular to the first, thus expanding the home's footprint while enabling an elaborate recessed entry verandah.


Gore house (1912) a remarkable innovation in bungalow design that set the city to talking


Looking at Maclure's buildings today, one has the impression he relished the act of refining their shape and detailing, whether grandiose or compact, and that this almost playful trait accounts for the sheer variety of his essays in the colonial bungalow style over decades. By 1912, when he came to design Gore House at Regent's Place (photo above), his conception had evolved considerably from that governing his family home in 1899. Gore House is set across a gently sloping landscape, on foundations so low the building appears to rise directly from the land itself, in California arts-and-crafts style (see first photo, above). The exposed rafter tails under its projecting hip roof lend this bungalow a modest Craftsman touch (yet it comes equipped with gutters and downspouts, a practical necessity in Victoria's rainy winter). But in this instance Maclure's dormers are flat-roofed, standing in sharpened contrast to the bell-cast main roofline, and are significantly larger in size so as to optimize interior spatial gain. The heightened hip roof also serves this end.


Here the main roof-form is bell-cast at the edges, and the roofed entryway mimics it


There is also a projecting roofed-over entryway that does trace the main roof's form, both being gently lifted at the edges (photo above). Segger says that Maclure continually modified these interpretations so as to better meet the needs of his clients and the particular site: "While builders and other architects were quick to follow with their own versions of the Maclure bungalow, the form remained with the architect a gradually evolving house-type to which he returned again and again, always with a variation which better adapted it to client, location and current taste."


Dormer treatment and slight lift at the roof's edge continue, the roof angle is now far steeper


For the A.O. Campbell House (elevations above, UVic Library) also in 1912, Maclure retained the contrasting, flattened dormer roofs as at Gore House, but made the main hipped roof rise even more sharply, further dramatizing its volume. The edges of his roof still flare gently outwards in what the eye sees as a delicate curve. The building pictured above also nestles comfortably into its rocky situation, sited near to the ground plane so as to leave nature's original bequest as undisturbed as possible. This evolving Maclure style was by now quite familiar to local eyes, making his designs even more sought-after by the discerning subset of people who could afford an architect-designed home. Maclure's unique way of doing this, his architectural 'indigenization' of the colonial bungalow form if you will, may in earlier days have contributed certain design-leads for the paradigmatic shape these buildings ultimately assumed as units of expanding suburbia; but here we see him veering further away from any literal repetition. Segger says Maclure was always intrigued by the possibilities of the colonial bungalow form, tackling it anew over nearly three decades, and going so far as to explore its potential to be scaled-up grandly into a novel form of mansion-house. Nowadays these intriguing smaller buildings are sometimes referred to as 'Edwardian' bungalows, or even as 'Edwardian' cottages (muddying the waters yet further) but they are in fact colonial bungalows, despite sharing features like coziness with British cottages, as they descend directly from colonial antecedents in India. Besides, a market for this genre of building existed on either side of the Edwardian era (technically from 1901 - 1910) so the colonial bungalow's story is in no way limited to, nor is it captured by, the abbreviated compass of this notional era. Eventually a substantial number of bungalows following a more-or-less paradigmatic version of this program would be built in every corner of the region, typically appearing in suburbs alongside other contemporary housing (originally often built in threes, by contractors, during the summer months, as buildings on spec often were early in the twentieth century). They are likely the by-product of builders directly cribbing treatments like those at Arden or the Maclure home on Superior. I will have more to say about that phenomenon in part two of this article, but for now here's a quite lovely, if slightly incongruous, interpretation of the paradigmatic style (photo below). Note that despite the classical brackets and the stone foundation and piers, the verandah has shrunk to a mere half the width of the building, while a diminished bay window (more a sidewall feature than a frontal bay) has been run out to its edge. While this instance has some very positive features to it, the loss of half the verandah, making it more an entry-porch, renders the design discontinuous and somewhat incongruous.

Fairfield colonial bungalow with some rustic flair in its stone basement and tapered verandah piers

A smaller part of the bumper crop of bungalows in this idiom erected from the late 1890s to around the start of the first World War were in fact architect-designed interpretations, styled expressly for clients requesting this type of house. But Maclure, however he may have contributed to overall colonial bungalow design-trends with one or other of his early variants, was busily evolving novel versions for specific sites and clients. This dynamic can be glimpsed in the influences combining in the C. B. Jones house at 1911 Woodley Road in Saanich (1913, COVArchives, below). Designed for a successful Victoria contractor/engineer on the then-rural slopes of Mount Tolmie for use as a luxury getaway, Maclure here opts for fully flat-roofed dormers but adds a really grand two-storey Tudor gable that relieves the roof form and gains a distinctive sense of entry. This time the now-steeply hipped roof has no apparent flare at the edges. Rafter tails are again visible, expressing part of the building's underlying structure in Craftsman fashion, and there are knee-braces securing the Tudored gable form along with a dropped finial. Roof-wise, Maclure appears increasingly influenced by renowned designer C. F. A. Voysey, a British arts-and-crafts architect who also found colonial bungalow roof lines appealing (he often placed scaled-up hip roofs on the quite voluminous structures he designed for his relatively well-off clientele). Segger notes that from 1903 on "the low-rise hipped roof colonial bungalow undergoes a transformation into a larger roofed building of much more simplified form". The building pictured below appears also to have nascent corner buttresses too, another Voysey-like touch. The house itself is shingle-clad, after local arts and crafts fashion.


A vacation house done up for successful Victoria engineer/builder C.B. Jones in 1911

Whether or not we can discern any direct links between Maclure's early innovations and the paradigmatic form colonial bungalows took up until circa 1914 (when growth in general building around Victoria ground to a halt) his design-vocabulary in this idiom continued to catch the attention of discerning people of means - those with the wherewithal to hire an architect to gain a really distinctive design. Maclure was very much in sync with the local market for this specialized building-type, his suite of designs comprising its leading edge. Maclure-designed bungalows might be modestly sized, as at Gore house, or they could be scaled-up substantially, like the Harry T. Shaw house on Foul Bay Road (elevation below, UVic Library). They might be built as year-round homes in town or as weekend houses placed in scenic locales for successful entrepreneurs. Segger says that the colonial bungalow "was well-suited to climates where combinations of oppressive heat and monsoon rain dictated open, well-ventilated but sheltered living spaces. Victoria's own mild, yet not always hospitable climate encouraged this kind of open, yet restricted, relationship with the landscape." 




Despite the marked success of a more standardized (if still quite charming and comparatively well-planned) mass-market version of the colonial bungalow, Maclure continued tweaking his own designs in ways that ensured his buildings remained fresh and contemporary. One such bungalow - and a truly vast one at that - emerged in the form of Benvenuto (picture below) the garden home of Jenny and Robert Butchart (of Butchart Gardens fame) which Maclure evolved in a series of redesigns and additions between 1911 - 1925. Segger notes that we do not know definitively whether Maclure designed this house originally, but acknowledges that he may have. Intriguingly, the main bungalow incorporates many features closely associated with the paradigmatic form of these buildings, like the lifted edges of the large hipped roofs and the way the dormers echo that treatment. An undated photo (below, possibly from the thirties) shows Maclure's handiwork at the heart of a landscape that is much-appreciated by tourists and locals to this very day.

Benvenuto, Butchart Gardens, for Jenny and Robert Butchart, shown here in the thirties (likely)

Maclure was also seasoned at deploying the hipped, bell-cast roof-form on larger, multi-storey buildings. One occasion appeared early on in his career, in the form of the commission he won for Gabriola (1901/2), located in Vancouver's west end and designed for B.T. and Emily Rogers, owners of the ultra-successful B.C. Sugar concern. A prestigious endeavour for such a young architect (especially perhaps for one whose home base was little Victoria) Maclure showed he had the chops to design majestic residences for the well-heeled in surging Vancouver. This one occupied an entire city block when first built, incorporating gardens, outbuildings and a paddock for five horses. You can see from the picture below that the roof form (if far more grandiose and elaborated here than on any of his bungalows, due in part to the gravitas of slate as a roofing material) is nonetheless composed of elements similar to his early colonial bungalow roofs (see pictures below). Here the dormers reflect the proportioning and finish of the main hipped roof, floating gracefully in their allotted roof space.  Maclure's comfort level with this elegant roof type is evident at Gabriola (which somehow has magically persisted to this day). Note how he forms his main roof (hipped, bell-cast, graceful) and how the dormers float in the roof space for optimal decorative effect.



Gabriola, a two-plus-storey mansion with colonial bungalow roof features


This luxurious building has classy touches galore, from its carved sandstone motifs (by John Wills Bruce, a Scottish architectural sculptor) and wooden classical detailing to its magnificent stained glass windows. Originally Gabriola sported much-more extensive grounds, encompassing outbuildings and stables in a gardened landscape setting. And, apart from several insults inflicted due to conversion to high-end steakhouse (the famous Hy's) plus a modicum of casual disfiguring of features through repurposing and parceling into suites, Gabriola itself remains substantially intact, a living example of Maclure's arts-and-crafts credo and its period authenticity. Above all, it underscores his personal ability to realize a complete vision for a statement-house, working entirely through the hands of other artist-craftsmen. Gabriola has apparently now reverted to condo-suites (or is in the process of attempting this conversion) which may in fact comprise good recycling of this sort of luxury heritage (especially if its ongoing maintenance is worked adequately into the homeowner bargain); sadly, the price of this rescue is that a brutally modernist piece of visual flotsam will be inflicted on its already abbreviated grounds. I'm both sad, and yet glad, that it's being done - at least Maclure's artwork continues intact for future generations (and for a few lucky suite owners).



Gabriola, named for the source of its sandstone exterior, showing hip roofs and dormers


Whatever the commission Maclure accepted, he was disinclined to simply duplicate his prior designs: each one represented fresh opportunity to shape a building, an approach that required a continuously evolving design-vocabulary. The Captain Verner house (picture below) dating to 1912 and built in Duncan, BC illustrates this continuous updating of design-vocabulary in motion. This time we detect no lift at the edges of the roof, but here the dormer does repeat the main roof form. This time the walls sport prominent Tudor-boards (rather than the more subdued cedar shingles) in what seems a stark black-and-white contrast. Tudor detail and Tudor allusions were themes Maclure explored expressively on many of his buildings, viewing these touches as 'appropriate form' for a design-commissioning public of British background. Where the earlier use of cedar shingles as siding expressed west coast arts-and-crafts values, the demonstrative black and white scheme now emphasizes the British connection more fully.

From shingle siding to blackened Tudor Boards with white stucco panels: the Captain Verner bungalow


Below is a picture of the E. D. Todd mansion in Oak Bay (Dainhurst), also designed in 1912, which saw Maclure scaling-up the colonial bungalow format to achieve a much grander building plan. Here a massive, two-and-a-half storey, Tudor gable frames a compelling front entrance, the verandahs it leads through deeply recessed under the main roof form. The subtle bell-cast roof is back again in this example, dormers are of the firmly flat-roofed type, and the main hipped roof is absolutely gargantuan. The bungalow-form seems to invite this sort of exaggeration of features in the hands of creative architects, perhaps especially in the way the roof is treated in the instance of colonial-type bungalows. This mansion-version comes with rubble-stone foundations rising up into tapered stone piers that convey rustic flair and connect it to the landscape. In this example the Tudor boards are limited to the gable peaks and dormer sides and have been set in less-sharp contrast to the 'plaster' element, making them more understated in effect than at the Captain Verner house.

The E. D. Todd mansion in Oak Bay saw Maclure scaling the colonial bungalow form way up


It's intriguing to consider that the colonial form of bungalow, while making the rounds of Britain's Pacific colonies, came to have a life of its own in quaint little Victoria. Here the colonial bungalow established itself as an indigenous type well before bungalows took off as subdivision housing in Los Angeles (beginning about 1905). Los Angeles' success at using the bungalow-and-streetcar combination to extend suburban space would trigger the transfer of similarly-styled dwellings to virtually every growing city-region in North America, eventually reaching as far afield as Australia. From Los Angeles the bungalow idea drifted northwards along the Pacific coast, setting up in growing urban regions where it was deployed to house newcomers attracted by prospering cities like San Francisco, Portland and Seattle. This transfer was propelled by the mounting wave of pattern books published by bungalow marketers like Jud Yoho or Henry Wilson, enthusiastic magazines like The Craftsman, and the easy availability of pre-cut, ready-to-assemble models distributed from centres like Chicago via North America's abundant rail connections. Eventually, by about 1910, the California-style bungalow reached both Victoria and high-growth Vancouver, in the latter case taking off on lines similar to the LA development model. Victoria's bungalow constructors were active in the pulsing prewar period too (just not on anywhere near the same scale), while Vancouver enjoyed booming conditions and rapid population growth on both sides of the first World War. Victoria's architectural community was in one sense positioned to anticipate the entire process of bungalow-extended subdivision, by dint both of the historic British imperial connection to the bungalow-form and its early presence as a building type meeting the expectations of people who could commission architects to design their homes. And local contractors extended this reach by copying or amending high-style versions to create the beginnings of a mass market. Yet what a smaller city like Victoria (population around 46,000 in 1914) lacked to fuel full take-off was in-migration on the scale powering development in neighbouring Vancouver. There, explosive port-and-railway-related growth translated more readily into sustained demand for speculative housing, fed by extensive electric streetcar networks, delivered in what were substantial subdivisions. The differing growth dynamics in these two centres meant that when bungalows caught on as mass-market housing in Victoria in the runup to WW1, the colonial bungalow tended to be built as one of many bungalow-type options on offer to the broad public. While high-style demand for this building-form constituted a definite local market from the late 1890s at least, the mass market was served more by contractors than by architects, and as a result colonial bungalows went through the now-familiar process of cheapening, standardizing, and downsizing in their hands. This process did, however, make them more accessible to greater numbers of people, but over time popularity tended to come at the expense of quality, and as significantly, of size. The building shrank considerably to meet the needs of standardized lot sizes, often being dressed less elegantly to hold the line on price. Throughout the building's constructional heyday, a creative architect like Maclure might evolve his designs continually but the mass-market tended to run in the opposite direction, moving steadily towards greater standardization. And after WW1, Victoria's economy was in the doldrums right up until a second world war began to shake it loose.


So from about 1910 on, which saw the advent of the newly popular California-style designs appear in steadily growing subdivisions, Vancouver especially followed in the footsteps of bungalow promoters working in major U.S. cities. The effect was felt in Victoria as well, but to a far lesser degree. Indeed, the phenomenon of multiplying bungalow suburbias in both cities was widespread enough that Anthony King (The Bungalow: The Production Of A Global Culture) suggests that the two effectively comprised a kind of "California North". Certainly in Vancouver developers employed similar methods to those honed in LA: housing built in large tracts, using bungalow models that were differentiated sufficiently to maintain varied streetscapes, connecting suburbanites to jobs, services and entertainment using electric streetcars, and doing it all at relatively low prices due to cheap land and building materials. And by some strange alchemy, the colonial bungalow form that rendered itself paradigmatic in Victoria re-emerged as one of a half-dozen standardized bungalow types constituting the California type. So versions of it came to be built in subdivisions in many cities in North America (it was not, however, ever known as a colonial bungalow outside of BC, and it may or may not have enjoyed any relationship to Victoria's pattern). How this occurred is not something revealed by my research however, so the question of actual origins remains very much open. Nevertheless, as King notes, regional forms of bungalow design tended not to survive the tsunami of centrally generated patterns available in books, magazines and as high-quality pre-cut package kits for bungalow-style houses. To be sure, many high-style versions of colonial bungalows were designed for clients of means in Victoria (as there were for the California variant with its initial popularity here). But in a couple of decades at most, bungalows would become over-identified as cheap, accessible middle class housing, to the point that people of means consciously looked to other forms of building to express status and taste. So in the end, Victoria's colonial bungalow eventually fell to the same axe that killed the California variant. And when bungalows generally fell from favour (as they did with the onset of the Great Depression, if not sooner) so too the colonial bungalow largely vanished from view.

This is the first of a series of articles about the colonial bungalow's history in Victoria, B.C., a British Pacific colony where the building type was indigenized early in its history. Built here and there as one of a palette of expatriate design choices, it typically involved an architect who gave it a more-or-less distinctive appearance, before it enjoyed a second flowering in the era of mass-produced bungalow-types built on spec in subdivisions. Victoria's Colonial Bungalow Fling (2) explores the colonial bungalow in its heyday, both its architect-designed and builder-designed incarnations, including the era when the novel California bungalow was introduced and rapidly took over the new home market. In this era, with the notable exception of Maclure and other local arts-and-crafts architects who designed high-style variants, the colonial bungalow tended increasingly towards a set of repeating features in a distinctive style that soon became conventionalized. In this sense, the colonial bungalow was truly engulfed by the California bungalow's rapid overall popularity, and over time it became just one of the choices on offer within the larger bungalow phenomenon. There are still many fine colonial bungalows standing in our midst today, contrived back in the building's heyday; many more of them should enjoy formal heritage protection than currently do, so they are more likely to be retained long-term as community assets.


Books for looks:

The Buildings of Samuel Maclure, by Martin Segger (see especially Chapter Seven: Shingle Style and Colonial Bungalow, At the Confluence of Traditions)

The Bungalow: The Production Of A Global Culture, by Anthony D King.

Homeplace: The Making of the Canadian Dwelling Over Three Centuries, Peter Ennals and Deryck W. Holdsworth

Annandale Carriage House, Conservation Plan, Donald Luxton and Associates, November 2018, pdf available at, providing a history of Tiarks' twin bungalows and an outline of his architectural career.

Notes from the Long Paddock, Michael Kluckner, available online at:; a book-proposal by BC author MK on the history of architecture in Australia, illustrated by the author.

The Birdcages: British Columbia's first legislative buildings, 1859-1957, Robert Ratcliffe Taylor












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