One of the city’s oldest heritage homes, faithfully restored to its original state by experienced hands, is up for sale.
Sharon and Patrick Davie bought the once-dilapidated 1897 Victorian-era home at 215 W. Seymour in 2007 with the intention of restoring it as a retirement haven.
“At that time, it looked like an old crack shack,” Sharon said. “It was rented. It had been neglected, probably forever.”
When it was built, it was the home of W.T. Slavin, a prominent Kamloops businessman. He was a postmaster, bookseller and stationer who, with James McIntosh, founded the Electric Light Company in 1890. They produced the first electricity in Kamloops with a wood-fired generator west of town.
Few restoration projects are as thorough and well researched as this one. Sharon felt sorry for the once-elegant old lady — “I’ve always loved the home.” It’s a balloon-framed house, a design that originated in the 1830s and helped to revolutionize residential construction by incorporating the now standard two-by-four stud.
With help from her dad, Ron Kerpan, a retired finishing carpenter, the couple rolled up their sleeves and set to work, lots of work.
“It was pretty nasty. What can I say? It was disgusting.”
And well worn. They gutted the place right down to its 26-foot fir studs. Since it was a retirement project, every attention was paid to detail. They had new millwork, window and floor casings custom cut. New walnut hardwood floors went in. The old doors, mismatched and painted different colours, had been keyed as rented rooms, so they were replaced. The woodwork and refinishing was extensive.
“That’s one thing my Dad and I do very well.”
Inside, the 2,560-square-foot house feels roomier than one might expect. Suspended ceilings were removed to expose the original inlaid cherry wood ceilings — what a cover-up job. The foyer leading to the second floor is cavernous, illuminated in part by a large stained-glass window with its original glass.
“It’s all about the details.”
The kitchen is refurbished with a period look that includes custom-ordered appliances — a Heartland cast-iron gas stove and matching refrigerator next to the butler’s pantry.
A winding wooden staircase with its original banisters leads to a large master bedroom, five-piece main bathroom (with heated slate flooring for a touch of luxury) and a sitting room in the turret with a grand view of the South Thompson River.
Sharon found a 19th-century catalogue as a standard reference for architectural and home features of the day. She’d done restoration projects before, but nothing quite as large or ambitious.
At a used building materials store in Chilliwack, Sharon found glass doorknobs to match the period style. Three of the original cold-air returns were intact, so she had them cleaned and painted by Kamloops Powder Coatings.
The pushbutton light switches look like originals, although they’re factory reproductions. Light fixtures are antique, purchased through eBay. She even left some of the original knob-and-tube wiring above the porch. It no longer functions, but serves as a reminder of a bygone era, and as a connection to Mr. Slavin’s entrepreneurial vision.
The windows are the single-glazed originals. Half were painted shut — a real joy to loosen — but she put the pulley-weights back in so that they function smoothly again.
There are a few concessions to modern efficiency, including low-flow toilets, central air-conditioning and a high-efficiency gas furnace. With the home now completely insulated, Sharon wasn’t overly concerned about the thermal exchange through the old windows.
Down in the basement, the home’s foundation is exposed to reveal, not concrete or cinder block, but masonry and rock. They patched in the old coal shute and concreted the floor, which had been exposed dirt.
They put a lot of work into the exterior and landscaping, erecting river-stone retaining walls around the property while leaving the mature shade tree intact. They built a new front porch — the original one was long gone — and replaced some of the fir siding, which had rotted. The home looks newly built.
“These are heritage colours. During the Victorian period, they would have as many as three or four colours.”
Capping the accomplishment, at the peak of the Victorian turret stands an old iron weathervane. Yes, the original weathervane, complete with a bullet hole, the sort of character that money can’t buy.
Sharon even assembled a time capsule and concealed it for someone to discover in the future. The capsule includes a Tim Hortons calendar and a copy of The Daily News.
After all of their work, the couple wants to seek a more rural setting for their retirement. West Seymour, though the neighbourhood has visibly improved in recent years, is in the heart of the downtown, not far from where Fort Kamloops was first located 200 years ago. The Davies’ property, which was granted heritage recognition in 2010, is listed for $549,000.
The biggest challenge of the project?
“It all went, actually, pretty smoothly. Like I say, I’ve done it before, and with my father’s experience, it is a fully restored home.”