Muirhead House Historic
(photo via City of Victoria archives)

A Victoria house registered as a national historic site that was gutted by fire in the spring of 2020 is being restored.

Muirhead House at 223 Robert Street in Victoria West was burnt by an electrical fire on April 21st, 2020.

The house suffered serious issues including a destroyed roof, leading to extensive interior water damage as firefighters fought the blaze.

Now, work is underway through a local project management firm to repair the house and further protect it for preservation.

EPIC Project Management is collaborating with Muirhead home’s owner Jim Lee on the restoration work.

Lee purchased the property in 1976 and performed extensive repair work after the home fell into disrepair as a rooming house.

“When Jim purchased the house in 1976, it was in rough shape and he restored it fully. It has been his life’s work,” said Ben Schweitzer, owner of EPIC.

The restoration team is now working to open up walls to allow the building to dry out, remove compromised structural components, and replace plumbing, electrical, and heating systems.

The team is going to need help, however. They plan to submit a grant application to the Victoria Heritage Foundation for funding of a new roof, which they plan to install by the end of summer 2021.

EPIC has also started a GoFundMe campaign to raise additional funds for restoration work.

That campaign is specifically aimed at funding restoration of water-damaged fir wall panelling in the front entrance hall.

Once complete, Schweitzer says this section would be designated as having historic significance.

He says this type of designation helps preserve elements of the home under its current registration as a national historic site.

“The reason for designating specific elements is if a new owner were to purchase it, they’d have to retain elements that have historic significance,” Schweitzer told Victoria Buzz.

Interior mouldings, doors, and hardware are also being removed and labelled for restoration and future reinstallation.

Schweitzer says the team may also use surplus donations to perform additional work on the building’s iconic tower. He says this could also be designated as a feature of historic significance.

“The difficulty comes with meeting current building standards and complying with applicable building regulations without adversely affecting the significant architectural heritage elements of the house,” he said.

The house was originally built in 1905 for James Mclaren Muirhead and his family.

Muirhead was known for being one of the partners of Muirhead & Mann, a woodmill firm that supplied work for the B.C. parliament buildings.

There’s tons and tons. Because it’s a private residence, we didn’t want to ask for help restoring somebody’s home. But I constantly get comments from people on the street that it’s such a beacon of the community. Another thing along the same lines is the tower. Because that stayed standing through the fire, the hope was there.

The reason for designating specific elements is if a new owner were to purchase it, they’d have to retain elements that have historic significance.

Schweitzer says that crowdfunding restoration efforts through GoFundMe was a way to bring community members hoping to help together.

“I constantly get comments from people on the street that it’s such a beacon of the community,” he said.

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