As property prices soar on Vancouver Island, infill houses are gaining in popularity. But one Nanaimo builder is fighting to save historic houses heading for the wrecking ball. Skye Ryan reports.
To see Mike Marlowe at work on this Nanaimo home, revering each now deteriorating detail put into it by builders 100 years ago, it’s clear this is as much a job…
“That’s perfect, perfect, perfect.”
As a tribute to men he’s never met.
“Really crafty carpenters back then. There’s a lot of respect, And this was a mining town so it was probably a miner that lived in here. and put a lot of heart into their houses and you can feel that in here someone really put a lot of effort trying to make a nice hone for themselves.”
This Selby Street home had fallen as close to the wreckers ball as a house can get, and in the downtown, lot after lot that is just what’s happened, to make way for new housing.
“And Vancouver you’re seeing it in Vancouver they’re just tearing down these houses and they’re putting up these houses right on top of each other.”
But this one’s new owners decided to give the builder a shot, to bring it back to its former glory.
“I wanted to keep this house here I just said it has character and I saw the potential so I had an engineer involved and here we are. And we’ve got a 2800 square foot house that’s going to be beautiful.”
Little does this builder know, how important this house is, until we went looking for old records on it at the Nanaimo archives. It turns out the house started out looking like this. a tiny miners shack…
“Because that’s what people could afford to build. They then added decks and this whole thing in the front which looks more Edwardian or a little bit later. They just kept on adding to it.”
Apparently out of necessity.
“That’s a big family.”
And it was likely one of the first homes built here.
“I think so, we think it was built between 1885 and 1887.”
It belonged to Micheal Manson, a member of the provincial parliament or modern day MLA.
“It was an important house and that’s maybe why it went from being a typical miner’s cottage to being embellished.”
With that careful craftsmanship, that led Micheal Michael Marlowe to want to save it.
“It was an important house. Wow. Those are the gables right there. That is amazing yeah.”
Reassuring this builder about his instincts that he just had to protect it and keep it around for Nanaimo’s future.