by Donald Luxton

The historic houses of British Columbia present a rich and varied legacy that records in three dimensions the dreams and accomplishments of their builders. Houses provide shelter, but beyond this, also tell us stories about domestic functions, societal status, and personal aspirations. Each house is embedded in an historical context and timeframe, and when we analyze its style and details, we can better understand the people who lived there.

The structural and finishing elements of a house are inseparable from its symbolism. The style of a building is its distinctive shape or mode of expression, and is evoked partly by form and partly by decoration and finishes. Architectural styles appear and disappear due to fundamental shifts in society’s values, cultural priorities, moral attitudes and economic status, and are more than just a change in fashion.

Most ‘high’ style or academically-designed houses reflected a consciously-chosen image or mode of expression, which in British Columbia was usually the revival of an historical European model. Not every house has an easily identifiable style. A prominent or lavish house is more likely to aspire to high style and ‘academic’ correctness –the equivalent of a purebred – while a more utilitarian or vernacular house may reflect a more eclectic blending of elements.

By following this guide you will be able to determine, if not a particular style for your house, at least the influences that determined its appearance.

Scott Barrett, BA – Writer
Victoria Heritage Foundation
Vancouver Heritage Conservation FoundationHeritage Society of British Columbia
British Columbia Heritage Trust –