Restoration plans in place for home
The owners of one of the most significant heritage homes in Banff are planning to restore the Bankhead home to its former glory.
The A-ranked house, known as the Findlayson-Bowker residence, is believed to have been built in 1905 and later moved from the former coal mining town of Bankhead to 230 Muskrat St. around 1912.
Officials say the original exterior of the period Queen Anne style home appears fundamentally intact, retaining much of the architectural character and heritage value of the building.
“As far as superstar properties go, it’s right up there,” said Claire Wilkinson, a heritage planner with the Town of Banff and liaison with the Banff Heritage Corporation.
“The Banff Heritage Corporation was surprised and delighted to hear that the intent is to retain the existing structure.”
Bankhead was a coal mining town on the lower slopes of Cascade Mountain. The mine was established in 1904 and operated until 1922. Houses were sold for about $50 a room and moved to Banff, Canmore and Calgary.
When the Findlayson-Bowker residence was moved from Bankhead to Muskrat Street, it was converted to a boarding house for use by tourists.
Currently, the property is not publicly listed by the owners as a site of heritage significance, but is on the municipality’s heritage resource inventory as an A-ranked property.
In Banff, an A-30 ranking is the highest possible rating, taking into account history, architecture and environment, and the Bowker residence is an A-27.
Heritage preservationists feared the home would eventually be lost, particularly given its location in the Central Muskrat (RCM) land use district which, under new regulations, allows for much higher residential density.
“The initial thoughts of the heritage corporation was sites like this would face a grim future given the changes to regulations in this district to promote increased density,” said Wilkinson.
“It’s really reassuring when the owners brought this announcement forward to state that it would be preserved. They are voluntarily doing this, which is great news.”
But before the owners begin restoration work, they plan to build a one-and-a-half storey accessory building that would include a two-car detached garage and a one-bedroom accessory dwelling.
The project was given approval by the municipal planning commission on Sept. 14. As part of that decision, the commission granted a minor variance under the bylaw to the maximum allowable height from five metres to 5.61 metres.
That was based on the advice of town planners, who expedited the application and supported the variance as a way to create a non-financial incentive for the property owners for their intent to restore the main house.
In addition, Banff’s heritage resource policy indicates that “incentives such as relaxing the land use bylaw” are appropriate in the planning process.
“It is in this context that planning and development supports the requested variance to building height, which will make the accessory dwelling more liveable and economically viable,” said planner Keith Batstone.
Wilkinson said architecturally, the home is noted for being an excellent example of a period Queen-Anne style home with a full width front verandah.
She said the delicate turned porch supports and spindlework ornamentation are particularly noteworthy, as is the frieze suspended from the porch ceiling.
“The building commands the corner site and holds a very strong presence on the street,” said Wilkinson. “Its size and detailing really stand out.”
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