Plaques celebrate Oak Bay’s ‘century homes’

To honour those grand dames of Oak Bay architecture, the Oak Bay Heritage Foundation has launched a Century House Celebration

Oak Bay Heritage Foundation president Robert Taylor shows the plaques that will grace many of Oak Bay’s “century homes.”

Jennifer Blyth

Oak Bay News

Reaching the century mark is a significant milestone that should be celebrated.

To honour those grand dames of Oak Bay architecture, the Oak Bay Heritage Foundation has launched a Century House Celebration.

Foundation president Robert Taylor estimates approximately 1,000 pre-First World War houses still stand in Oak Bay, many in the area of Oliver, St. Patrick and Victoria streets. Records show limited building leading up to 1905, when things started to pick up before a pre-war building boom.

More than 300 houses were built in 1912, more than any other year. “That was the height of the boom,” Taylor says. “We don’t know how many are left, but they’re such wonderful houses.”

After seeing how Ontario’s ‘century houses’ are celebrated – and advertised – as something special, Taylor wanted to see a similar program launched in Oak Bay.

“It got us into the idea of how do we celebrate our old houses?” he says.

An informal program very different from official heritage designation, this is a no-strings-attached recognition of the home, whose owners receive an attractive plaque to mount proudly on the outside of the home. Calgary also has a similar program, as do many U.S. cities.

“It’s official, and the plaques look official and they’re quality, but at the same time it’s just a celebration and recognition. And I think it adds to the ambience (of Oak Bay).”

Initially promoting the idea at Oak Bay’s summer night markets, where a draw awarded three plaques, the initiative received a receptive response, Taylor says. A contest was then launched where homeowners could nominate their house to win a plaque. The home needed to be in Oak Bay, be 100 or more years old, in reasonable repair and reasonably original in appearance.

Beginning in November, plaques will be available for sale from the heritage foundation for $125.

With the owner’s name, address and year of construction, foundation volunteers can gather details about the house from the archives, which is provided for the current owners.

“I just think it’s another part of community values. One of the values Oak Bay has is its streetscape and part of that is how the older homes blend in to create this marvelous environment,” Taylor says. “This program is recognition of that.”

For details about the program, email heritageoakbay@gmail.com.