When Oak Bay artist Robert Amos set out to paint the Mount Saint Angela residence in Fairfield a decade or so ago, he had no idea his work would later be a focal point for the building’s 150th anniversary celebrations.
When the owners, the Isherwood family, saw the striking portrait of the red brick building at 923 Burdett Ave. in Fairfield, they were keen to purchase it, and it has hung in the family’s business office ever since, Amos recalled.
In honour of the building’s historic milestone, Amos’s painting was displayed during the anniversary celebrations hosted by the Norwood Group of companies Nov. 19. Alongside his painting were artistic representations of the heritage building by other local artists, including those in an art therapy program through Island Health, which currently leases the building.
“The building is really a remarkable bit of Victorian architecture here in Victoria,” says Amos, who has painted many of the region’s architecturally significant buildings over his career. “It’s sort of Gothic revival in brick and neither of these things is very common in Victoria.”
Mount Saint Angela plays a pivotal role in the Christ Church Cathedral precinct and has served many purposes within the community of Fairfield.
Constructed in 1865, the building was originally an all-girls’ Anglican college named Collegiate School for Young Ladies. The name soon changed to Angela College in recognition of its generous benefactor, Lady Angela Burdett-Coutts of England. After the school closed in 1905, it was reinvented in 1908 as the residential Angela Hotel.
A three-storey rear extension took place in 1912 to increase the room capacity and create more living space for the hotel.
The hotel was managed by numerous owners over the following years but was eventually sold in 1959 to the Sisters of St. Ann, who converted the Angela Hotel into a retirement home for their order, created space for a chapel and renamed the building Mount Saint Angela. In 1992 it was designated heritage and the sisters won a Hallmark Society Award for their restoration of the building the following year.
In 2006 the Isherwood family – who had sold the building to the sisters in 1959 – bought back Mount Saint Angela and the building is now leased to Island Health and acts as a facility for those with disabilities.
That three such remarkable and distinct organizations have called the building home over the years, in addition to its time as a hotel, is significant, says Amos, who enjoyed seeing the artistic interpretations the art therapy artists took with the building that had captured his own imagination so many years before. While the others had not seen Amos’s painting before they were tasked with their assignment, he was interested to see that several had chosen the same perspective as their inspiration.