When the 2019 Home and Garden Awards were handed out by Townsite Heritage Society, recipients of the Grand Heritage Award, and previous winners of Most Improved Garden, were Will and Brenda Van Delft.
The award is given to a well maintained/restored property that best represents Townsite’s heritage in exterior details, colours and landscaping. Originally started by The Powell River Company, the awards were reestablished by the heritage society in 1992.
Will and Brenda spent 22 years in Kimberley raising their two boys. When one moved to Sidney to do search and rescue for the West Coast Trail and the other moved to England to go on tour as a lighting technician, it was time to move on.
Coming to Powell River wasn’t their original plan, however, Will had a college friend living here and while watching the real estate market an opportunity presented itself. When they decided to relocate to Powell River they weren’t particularly looking for a heritage home.
“As soon as Brenda walked through the front door and saw this, that was it,” said Will.
“I fell in love with it,” added Brenda.
They wanted to move into a move-in ready house but Brenda jokes that it just didn’t happen and after seven years they’re still working on it. They worked with the heritage society and museum obtaining old photos of their Maple Avenue home, including one from the cover of the 1925 edition of the Powell River Digester.
When it came to restoring the 1920 property, they believed that history would help them the most and found lots of inspiration. This year they will be celebrating the home’s 100th anniversary.
The outside of the building they originally purchased is barely recognizable to the way it looks today. The real estate photo from 2013 shows a home covered in drab vinyl siding with a closed-in porch.
“When we started pulling back the vinyl, little by little we noticed the original wood was still there and [we] decided to keep going with it,” said Will.
They also removed the room at the front of the home and converted it back to an inviting open porch that now houses a chair swing, which was a gift from their children.
Other than some help from family members, all of the work on the home has been done by themselves. Will spent two years in charge of facilities and maintenance in Fort Steele, an old heritage town in the Kootenays. It was during this time he gained the knowledge needed to restore a heritage home.
“I was in charge of a lot of the restoration projects there, so when we came here and started seeing what we were really in for, that’s when I thought, ‘oh ya, I could do this,’” said Will. Will’s brother is an electrician who was able to replace all of the old knob and tube wiring, which considerably cut down on the cost.
Although the award is for the exterior of the home, they’ve done extensive work to the interior as well. They say they were lucky because half of it had already been restored, however, they’ve gutted and reconfigured the bathroom, redone the kitchen, painted the original lathe and plaster walls in warm heritage colours, purchased ceiling lights from a heritage lighting store in Mission and installed wall sconces that were originally from Brenda’s grandmother’s home in West Vancouver.
When they painstakingly removed the old shag carpet from the master bedroom it revealed stunning original fir floors.
The Van Delfts both enjoy gardening, which is evident by the neatly manicured yard. The front features a breathtaking Korean Pink Dogwood, which was a housewarming gift from Brenda’s parents, and many flower beds that are just starting to wake from winter.
There is a sense of pride when Will and Brenda talk about Townsite.
“There’s a lot of people who’ve moved here with an idea and gotten inspired by the neighbourhood,” said Will.
Many morning coffees are now enjoyed out on the front porch, which leads to plenty of conversations with people passing by enquiring about the work they’ve done.
Will believes the original open front porches were built to, “foster a sense of social atmosphere.”
When asked what the award means to them, Brenda is humble in her response.
“It is recognition for our hard work,” she said. “We still have lots to do so when we got the Grand Heritage Award it was like, ‘no, we’re not done!’”
Will concurs with his wife’s assessment.
“It’s nice to get that kind of recognition, but keeping in mind that they do this every year, so every year there’s somebody deserving who’s worked really hard at restoring their home,” he said. “Those awards are meant to inspire.”