The life over time on one block of St Patrick Street

In the beginning, 1986 or thereabouts, was Stuark Stark’s Oak Bay’s Heritage Buildings: Not Just Bricks and Boards. Now we have a logical progression in the survey of our built heritage: a spiffy new book, St Patrick Street, Oak Bay, Oak Bay Avenue to Brighton Avenue: An Architectural & Social History by Robert Taylor and Janet Morningstar, with a welcome new angle on local history: the life over time of a single block, a portrait in public records, peppered with narratives from the press of the day.

The northernmost block of St Patrick Street has one of the most distinctive clusters of heritage houses in Oak Bay. Twenty-three houses, including two on Oak Bay Avenue and one on Brighton Avenue, are lovingly presented, in chronological order of their building, between 1907 and 1970, in a pocketable 60-page inventory and guide.

The top of St Patrick Street, between Oak Bay Avenue and Brighton Avenue, to R. In Insurance Plan of Victoria. British Columbia. Volume III, revised 1916. Courtesy Royal British Columbia Museum. Accessed via University of Victoria Digital Collections, Victoria Fire Insurance Plans, 1913 Vol III, pp. 313, 317 (spliced, and showing overlap, middle R).

The authors’ painstaking compilations create a portrait in mosaic of a charmed corner of the world.

The authors are co-proprietors of the house at 1405 St Patrick, designed, like its neighbour, the Adne Graham House (above), by W. D. H. Rochfort, likely before the Great War and built in 1922. “We were interested in the house,” Robert Taylor tells me in an email, “as it was odd, a 1920s house but a 1912 design. Now we know why, and that’s how it all started, inspired by Stuart Stark.” The co-authors clearly have spent many hours consulting municipal and other caches of records. And like so many local historians, they have reaped the benefits of the Internet’s vast, growing, searchable databases and image banks. This estimable volume is a gem of microhistory, packed with foundational fact. Designer Arifin Graham’s clean type and lucid layouts complement the definitive text. I am sure St Patrick Street, Oak Bay will prove durable as a guide and reference and serve as a model for other such studies.

August 25, 2018

Beyond the Tweed Curtain