British Columbia

Sale of 'Canada's most fabulous house' worries Arthur Erickson fans

The home in Comox, B.C., is said to be the first residential property that Erickson designed. It sold last week to a couple from Victoria.

Home in Comox, B.C., is said to be the first residential property that Erickson designed

The Filberg House, one of Arthur Erickson's first residential designs, was recently sold to a couple from Victoria. (Re/Max)

Fans of Vancouver-born Arthur Erickson say they're concerned about the recent sale of what is said to be the first personal residence the award-winning modernist architect designed in 1959. 

The Filberg House, named after the son of the logging baron it was built for, was listed in early August and sold last week for nearly $2.75 million. 

This is the second time Realtor Marc Villanueva has sold the house, which is perched on the highest point in Comox, B.C., on Vancouver Island. Villanueva says the owners, a couple from Calgary, appreciated the historical value of the home but they wanted to upgrade to a larger place.

"When it was designed and built, it was for a single fellow, and it was a bachelor pad," he said. 

Although the listings says the home has four bedrooms and three bathrooms, Villanueva says that's because of an additional building that was constructed as a medical clinic for the doctor who owned it at the time.

The Filberg House was designed to take in sweeping views of Comox Bay. (Re/Max)

The main house, he says, has one bedroom and a small den. Its main purpose was for entertaining and taking in the sweeping vistas from the bluff it sits on.

Villanueva says the house was sold to a couple from Victoria. 

Architectural photographer Simon Scott, who is also a board member of the Arthur Erickson Foundation, worries what will happen to it now. 

Scott says the property, once named "Canada's most fabulous house" in a 1961 issue of Canadian Homes, should be preserved as is. 

"It must be saved," he said. "It's a jewel in Canada." 

The house sits on more than seven acres, and more than 700 feet of waterfront. (Re/Max)

Scott, a longtime friend of Erickson's, says he got to see the house shortly after it was built. He also had the misfortune of seeing it after one of the owners renovated. 

The house was covered in pink stucco. 

"It was atrocious," he said. "It was just disgraceful. Totally, totally disgraceful." 

Realtor Villanueva also recalls that period in the home's history. He says the house was "cannibalized."

A neighbour, Doug Field, eventually bought the home and restored it. 

The Filberg House is considered a classic example of Arthur Erickson's work. (Re/Max)

Villanueva says the house does need a few upgrades to usher it into current times. The electrical and plumbing systems need to be upgraded, he says, and new owners would likely want to upgrade the small bathroom and kitchen.

Realtor Marc Villanueva says the Filberg House was designed as a bachelor pad, with a kitchen that many modern families would consider small. (Re/Max)

For Scott, the idea that such a historic piece of architecture would be altered at all is blasphemy. He says the Town of Comox doesn't have any heritage designations as part of its bylaws, so it's possible the house could be changed beyond recognition.

"It should be with architectural people who can decide who is best to have it," he said. "I would love to see the city of Comox take it over and have it as a centre." 

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the Arthur Erickson house as the Filbert House. In fact, it is the Filberg House.
    Aug 31, 2020 6:49 AM PT

About the Author

Maryse Zeidler

@MaryseZeidler

Maryse Zeidler is a reporter for CBC News in Vancouver, covering news from across British Columbia. You can reach her at maryse.zeidler@cbc.ca.

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