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Heritage tour explores hidden lane
One of New Westminster's oldest homes is the newest renovation triumph for Ken and Angela Emsley.
On May 25, the McIntosh house at 125 Bonson St. will be one of the featured stops along the 35th annual Heritage Homes Tour and Tea put on by the New Westminster Heritage Preservation Society.
To get to the point the Emsleys were confident enough to show off their handiwork took about a year of hard work and many months encamped in a cramped trailer next to the two-storey Victorian house.
Built in 1891, the McIntosh house was described by the Weekly News-Advertiser as "a gem of its class" that offered "a fine view of the country in all directions."
As the Queen's Park neighbourhood grew up around it, subsequent owners kept it well-maintained. None inflicted the indignities of modernizing, like linoleum flooring, dropped ceilings or subdivision into boarding rooms, that plagued so many stately homes in the area through the 1960s and '70s.
So when the Emsleys bought it in 2010, they could see the potential that could be brought out with a bit of care, said Angela.
"The house had a nice feeling," she said. "It had a good layout and the rooms were a nice size."
The McIntosh house is the Emsleys fifth heritage renovation project in New West. So they knew going in that they'd have to replace all the electrical and plumbing.
They weren't even phased by the prospect of jacking up the old house and moving it back 16 feet to a new foundation. They'd elevated two previous houses to do foundation work.
They enlisted New West heritage architect Eric Pattison to create a modern living space that stayed true to the home's Victorian character. They built an addition to accommodate a family room and master bedroom, and a garage in the back. They levelled the rolling backyard that at one time included a greenhouse. Mouldings around the soaring doorways were recreated with modern materials.
But some old features were retained. The floors in the front part of the house just needed refinishing. The narrow, steep staircase to the second floor was stripped and given new paint. The original fireplace in the front parlour was surrounded with a new mantle.
"We didn't want a replica (of the original home)," said Angela. "But you still want the home to have a heritage feeling."
Ken said the home's location on a narrow lane between Park Row and Queens Avenue was part of its appeal.
"There are lots of hidden little streets in Queen's Park, that's part of the charm," he said.
But mostly he relished the challenge of breathing new life into an overlooked gem.
"I like the challenge of taking a sow's ear and turning it into a silk purse," he said.
Tickets for the 35th annual Heritage Homes Tour and Tea go on sale May 3 at Royal City Colours, Cadeaux Gifts, Irving House Musuem, GardenWorks-Mandeville and online at www.newwestheritage.org.