Lasting Legacy of BC Architect in Chilliwack

P736 John Henry Ashwell House

In Chilliwack we are fortunate to have a lasting legacy of the architect Samuel Maclure in the Ashwell House, located at 46029 Victoria Avenue. Designed by Maclure and Richard Sharpe, his architectural partner at the time, the residence was designed and completed in 1891/1892 for John Henry Ashwell, former Sardis postmaster and mayor of Chilliwack from 1917-1922. But who was Samuel Maclure?

Although there remains some dispute, Samuel Maclure was often referred to as the first white male child born in New Westminster on April 11, 1860. His parents, John and Martha had arrived separately from England via sailing ships, with John arriving a month before his wife. John Maclure was a surveyor and member of the Royal Engineers who were tasked with the job of creating infrastructures and keeping law and order in the colony. The area was inundated with around 30,000 gold-seeking men descending upon what would become British Columbia.

The Maclure family would end up settling in Matsqui in 1868 where John would become a telegraph operator. While the entire Maclure family would work at the telegraph office, Samuel did not see a future in this profession and after a stint working as an operator in Vancouver and New Westminster gave up his position to attend art school in Philadelphia. There he studied not only art but engineering, plumbing and wood and metal work. It was at art school where he honed his mechanical and architectural drawing skills.

After Samuel’s marriage in 1889 and his honeymoon spent canoeing in the Chilliwack area, Samuel set up his architect practice in New Westminster then Victoria and embarked on a long, prolific career – often partnering with others architects. His firm was commissioned to design mainly homes and cottages- Maclure designed very few public buildings comparatively speaking.

According to Vancouver architect Arthur Erickson (in the forward of Janet Bingham’s 1985 book, Samuel Maclure Architect) Samuel Maclure “was probably the most gifted of early B.C.’s architects”. If you are not familiar with the work of the architect, you need not look afar.
His work was prolific in Vancouver and Victoria (where he moved with his family in 1892) and is noted for the craftsmanship often incorporated into his designs such as stained glass windows, built-in-china cabinets, bookcases and window seats and detailed woodwork and stonework. In addition, Samuel Maclure’s abilities included landscape design, a skill he utilized in some of his commissions. He provided landscape advice to the Butchart family in Victoria as the family developed a former lime quarry into the fantastic gardens they are today. According to the research completed by Janet Bingham in her book about the architect, no two home designs were alike. Maclure also took great care to ensure each home was situated to take in the views and attributes of the property and surrounding environs.

Here are just a few examples of Maclure’s work in Vancouver, Victoria and Burnaby.

Hatley Castle – Victoria. Now home to Royal Roads University. http://www.royalroads.ca/about/hatley-castle

Miraloma – Sydney. Built for a former Lt. Governor (1920-1926) this beautiful home is now home to the Latch Inn & Restaurant. http://www.latchinn.ca/

Gabriola – Vancouver. Located on Davie Street and built for the Rogers Sugar family, the stately home has seen several incarnations from the Hy’s Mansion to the Macaroni Grill. Currently unoccupied with an unknown future.Gabriola

Cecil Green House at UBC – Originally called “Kanakla”, native for “House on the Hill” the grand mansion was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Cecil Green in 1967 and generously donated to the University of British Columbia, along with funds for restoration. http://cecilgreenpark.ubc.ca/

Overlynn – McGill Street, Burnaby. The mansion is part of Seton Villa, a seniors centre complex. http://historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=3799

If you are interested in learning more about the architect, I recommend the book written by Janet Bingham titled “Samuel Maclure, Architect”, written in 1985.
The University of Victoria also has many of Maclure’s drawings and architectural plans on file. The inventory is online here: http://www.uvic.ca/library/locations/spcoll/findaids/maclure_inventory.pdf

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