Surplus DND building in Esquimalt floats away to new home

Local heritage advocate glad to see oldtime politician’s former home saved, moved to new site

A Nickel Brothers driver starts up his truck in preparation to move a house from 316 Anson St. on Department of National Defence land to a barge at the shoreline near Macaulay Point. The building was towed up Island to Buckley Bay on Monday.

An Island couple have come to the rescue of a DND heritage home previously slated for the scrapyard.

The property, located at 316 Anson St. near Macaulay Point, is the former home of John Jardine, Esquimalt’s representative in the Provincial Assembly from 1907 to 1912.

The heritage committee for the Township of Esquimalt cried foul in September when Parks Canada said the building didn’t qualify for heritage protection and it was placed on DND’s surplus inventory list.

But early Monday morning, the three-storey wood-framed structure was loaded onto a barge and towed to a half-acre lot between Buckley Bay and Union Bay.

The operation is nothing new for buyers Ben and Jen Ford.

The couple have replanted six heritage houses along the east coast of Vancouver Island since 2006, including their current home in Union Bay, which originated in Vancouver’s Dunbar neighbourhood.

“We’re pretty unique in what we do,” Ben said. “Years later, you look back and realize it’s very different than what most other people call a profession.”

A key factor in moving the home was in purchasing a lot close to the water, he added.

Because of the building’s height, B.C. Hydro crews were on hand Friday to remove electrical obstacles as house movers Nickel Brothers wheeled the structure toward the shoreline at Macaulay Point.

“The DND was wanting to remove the house one way or another, so we did about two months of work in about a week and a half,” Ford said.

Biological and geotechnical surveys had to be completed on a creek bed running through the Buckley Bay property, and the couple were responsible for readying the interior of the house for the move.

Jack Bates, a military heritage advocate who fought to save the building, said he’s glad the Fords came forward with a compromise.

“If it can’t stay on site with some form of enterprise to make it pay for itself … at least it’s being relocated,” he said.

The home features first-cut pine and fir flooring, a split staircase and four original fireplaces.

It was most recently used as a child-care facility for DND staff, according to federal documents.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” Ford said.

“The DND gets the house out of there in a politically correct manner, the Hallmark Society is happy it wasn’t destroyed and we’ve got an amazing project to work on.”

dpalmer@vicnews.com