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Goward House

Home Away From Home



In Brief

Goward House was originally the home of the Goward family.  For much of the 20th century, 2 generations of Gowards resided here. In 1986 widow Elizabeth Goward vacated the house and in 1989, Saanich District, by prearrangement with the Gowards, converted the home to a Senior’s Activity Centre. Goward House celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2016.

Below are some highlights of the history of Goward House for which we are indebted to member Everett Peterson.


In 1908, Bernard and Mary Goward built their family home and called it the ‘Woodlands’. At ‘Woodlands’, Bernard and Mary raised three daughters (Katherine, Ruth, and Isabel) and a son, Owen.

Bernard Goward died in 1932, and Owen Goward inherited ‘Woodlands’ in 1940. Owen Goward married Elizabeth Remington in 1939. Both Owen and Elizabeth had a strong interest in art. Owen had studied art by correspondence from the Royal Academy in London and Elizabeth had graduated from the Art Institute of Philadelphia.

The Second Generation

Owen and Elizabeth took up resident at ‘Woodlands’ in 1946. Together they raised their children in an atmosphere of painting classes and music lessons. The Gowards were well known in the community and in the art circles through their music and their art.

When Owen retired in 1971, he and Elizabeth, both artists, opened an art gallery in their home to display their paintings. Increasing taxes on the ‘Woodlands’ property became a problem for the Goward family, but Owen would not agree to subdivide the land. When they sold the property to Saanich Municipality for $123,000 in 1973, they retained lifetime occupancy of the property. The lifetime occupancy of ‘Woodlands’ was relinquished by Elizabeth Goward in January 1986. She lived to see the renewed Goward House in its new role as a seniors’ activity centre. In 1989, the fledgling Goward House Society offered its first honorary membership to Elizabeth Goward. Mrs. Goward passed away in January 2002.

Green Space

In keeping with the Gowards’ desire not to subdivide the property, when it was sold to Saanich Municipality then Mayor Hugh Curtis designated that the land should be used as open space and stated that “as Gordon Head and Cadboro Bay develop, this land will be an oasis of green and quiet in an urban development”. Saanich’s Committee of the Whole Meeting on October 23, 1989 was presented with “Zoning Bylaw, 1988, Amendment Bylaw, 1989,No. 6423”, in which the former RS-10 zoning (single-family dwelling) of the Goward property was to be changed to Zone District P-4 (Recreation and Open Space) zoning. After a public hearing on November 28, 1989, this proposed zoning change was implemented by the Corporation of the District of Saanich.

This land and forest formerly known as ‘Woodlands’ remains today as a P-4 zone, Recreation and Open Space, in which the allowable land uses are: Community Centre; Park; Recreation Facility; Accessory Residential; Accessory Buildings and Structures; and Daycare and Preschool licensed under the Community Care Facility Act. Although Goward House has never been designated as a municipal park, the P-4 zoning gives substantial protection to the wishes expressed by the Goward family when the land was sold to Saanich. Any future development proposals for the land, except those fitting the specified allowable uses, would require the P-4 zoning to be changed, and the Cadboro Bay Local Area Plan would also likely need to be changed.

In addition, B.C.’s Streamside Protection Regulation, which came into force on January 19, 2001 as B.C. Reg. 10/2001 (Kyle 2001) limits development in zones adjacent to streams, a circumstance that provides some protection to the Haro Creek wetland area which occupies a significant portion of the Goward woodland. At present under this regulation, a ‘Streamside Protection and Enhancement Area’ is in effect for 10 meters on either side of Haro Creek, and a Development Permit is required for any structure proposed within 30 meter, of either side of Haro Creek.


Goward House has been described as Saanich’s best example of a vernacular British colonial bungalow. Mary Goward designed the house with the assistance of the Superintendent of the Esquimalt Dockyard, George Phillips, who was a close friend of the family. The rambling bungalow reflected Mary’s upbringing in British India. The first alteration to the house was designed by architect H.J. Rous Cullin. In 1911-1912, contractor A.H. Mitchell carried out the alterations suggested by Cullin, which included an addition to the west side of the house and the south-facing bay window (the present Sequoia Room and Sunroom).

Reflecting her upbringing in India, Mary Goward had desired wide, overhanging eaves. However, George Phillips thought that wide eaves would eliminate too much sunlight in this climate. Eventually Mr. Phillip’s suggestion was agreed upon by son Owen Goward and his wife Elizabeth when in 1948 they removed 2 feet off the width of the eaves around the perimeter of the house. Also, in 1948 they opened up the former attic and added dormer windows to create an upper level of living space.


In 1989 the District of Saanich commissioned a structural assessment of Goward House (Ker, Priestman & Associates Ltd. 1989). The 1989 engineer’s report identified all of the structural failings that would require attention to bring the building to modern codes and safety standards.

Clearly, the Society’s building committee, the supervising architect and the renovation contractor (Campbell Construction Ltd.) faced several challenges as they brought the former ‘Woodlands’ home back to life. The heritage appearance of the original home was preserved. The most notable change was to raise the entire house by 27 inches, provide a new concrete foundation, and excavate the crawl space sufficiently to create an entirely new lower level. By late 1991, the result was the Goward House we know today, with nearly 8,000 square feet of floor space on 3 levels.

Funding for the early 1990’s renovation came from many sources. Major contributors included: District of Saanich; Province of B.C.(through the GO-BC Fund); Government of Canada (through the New Horizons Program); Leon and Thea Koerner Foundation; B.C. Seniors Lottery; Vancouver Foundation; Victoria, Foundation; and the Great Canadian Casino Corporation (VI) Ltd. Other contributing organizations included B.C. Heritage Trust, Brock House in Vancouver, and Saanich and Gordon Head Kiwanis.

Goward House Society

In 1987 Saanich Municipality placed an advertisement calling for proposals for future use of the property at 2495 Arbutus Road. News about different proposals that were being advanced led to increased interest by local residents to propose a future use that would be compatible with the neighbourhood.

As a result of Saanich Municipality’s call for proposals, several other ideas were presented, including use of the house as an artistic centre for the Island Academy of Arts and Crafts; a proposal by the Bishop Cridge Society to renovate the house for use as a day-care centre and to develop 15 townhouse units for senior citizens and low-income families in the portion of the Goward property bordering Haro Road. As of November 1987, there was also one proposal to use the house and part of the property as a single-family residence. At that time, the Times Colonist indicated that planners in Saanich Municipality favoured use of the property as a seniors’ centre or as a municipal museum centre.

The report submitted to Saanich Council by the Goward House Society, in August 1988, titled “Proposal for the future use of the Goward House as a seniors’ social and cultural centre”, was conceived from a meeting of the Cadboro Bay Residents Association where it was decided to form a sub-committee to develop a concept plan for the Goward House property. The plan developed was for an adult activity centre and open space parkland for the property. The sub committee was replaced by a non-profit society. In the words of Gerry Gabel, president of the Cadboro Bay Residents Association at the time that Goward Gouse Society was formed in 1988, “The Goward House Society proposal will be an asset to the community and the Cadboro Bay Residents Association is both pleased and proud to have been part of its inception”.

The first significant funding of the new Goward House Society was an interest-free loan of $500 from the Cadboro Bay Residents Association. Several public meetings were held to discuss the idea of a social and cultural centre. During the earliest planning of how Goward House would be used, research was done and Brock House, a successful seniors’ centre in Vancouver, served as a model and example for the Goward House Society.

The Society’ first president was Kenneth MacNeill, and most of the first meetings were held in the MacNeill living room with his wife Audrey agreeing to the task of secretary. At one such meeting in 1988 it was agreed that it was time to formally register as a non-profit charitable society.

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