Historic mansion, now home for seniors, up for sale

Kildonan House

Kildonan House

It’s not clear if nine resident seniors will be evicted when a new owner takes over Kildonan House.

Since it was donated by the previous owner in 1998, the 16-room mansion at 931 Foul Bay Rd. has been run by the Demezey Abbeyfield Housing Society as a seniors retirement home. But after years of scrambling for funds to maintain the Samuel Maclure-designed house, the society’s seven-member volunteer board has decided to sell it.

“In a business world when expenses exceed revenue, you’re in deep trouble and we’re in that situation,” said board chair Alun Rees.

Revenue from apartment rentals can’t keep up with ongoing maintenance, he added.

Rents range from $500 for a bachelor to $950 for a three-bedroom, according to most recent records available to the News. Because of a loan agreement with Canada Mortgage and Housing, the rents are fixed.

Alison Partridge resigned as board chair two weeks ago and is moving to England. She said board members looked at all manners of fundraising and even considered turning the residence into a co-operative. But the anxiety caused by the need for constant upkeep took its toll, resulting in “board fatigue,” Partridge said.

“If there was a problem with the house, it wasn’t a problem until it was a disaster,” she said, adding the society has spent more than $750,000 on maintenance over the last 20 years. The fact there are no blueprints for the 10,765–square-foot mansion’s electrical or plumbing systems makes repairs especially problematic.

Although the house is not listed, two potential buyers have made offers well under the house’s $2 million assessed value; neither offer has been accepted.

What would happen to the residents once the house is sold isn’t known, Rees said. 

“That is entirely up to the buyer. We would naturally hope they keep them, but that’s not within our prerogative.”

A lone resident who answered the front door this week would not speak about the potential sale.

Susan Brice was Oak Bay mayor when engineer Albert DeMezey donated the 1913-built house to the society.

“(DeMezey) would summon me to go to his place for tea and go on about what he wanted to do,” she recalled.

“I think he would have been disappointed (about the sale), but he was a practical man and knew it had to have some practical contribution to the community. It couldn’t remain a museum.”

Mike Miller of Abstract Developments said he has looked at the property and might make an offer.

But the house and one-acre property is designated heritage and its geography – the lot is quite rocky – isn’t conducive to development, he added. 

“It’s not impossible, but there would be challenges,” he said.