Heritage home comes full circle

Gail Cooper (left) and Kora Sevier have applied colours to the W.H. Falding house that accentuate the home’s unique architectural features.             - Grant Granger/NewsLeader
Gail Cooper (left) and Kora Sevier have applied colours to the W.H. Falding house that accentuate the home’s unique architectural features.
— image credit: Grant Granger/NewsLeader

A facelift every 30 years or so is a good idea, especially at 123 years old.

The cute cottage that became the first home in New Westminster to receive heritage designation, and inspired formation of the New Westminster Heritage Preservation Society (NWHPS), now has a fresh look.

In the early 1980s, a group of residents decided to follow the example of fellow heritage enthusiasts in Victoria. They bought the gingerbread house at 431 Fourth St., built by B.C. Supreme Court registrar W.H. Falding in 1891. The plan was to restore it, resell it and reinvest the funds into buying and restoring others.

In 1985, it became the first home in the city to be designated as heritage. The list has since increased to 33, with plans in the works for more in the next year.

A huge amount of time, money and effort was put into making the cottage look beautiful by that original collection of idealists. But by the time they were done the real estate market had plunged and any dream of profit didn’t pan out. The group eventually sold the home to Gail Cooper and her husband, put their hammers away and became heritage activists instead.

Those passionate preservationists eventually formed the New Westminster Heritage Foundation in 1992. One of its missions is to raise funds for an annual building grants program. Every year since 1997, thanks to its annual home tour, the society puts $10,000 toward the foundation which the city matches. The foundation doles out the $20,000 to homeowners to help them with their heritage restoration projects. In those 17 years, the foundation has given out 64 grants, including three for 2014.

The money is meant for those little historical extras that become quite costly. They’re often projects that are lower priority in older homes.

“If a person was going to spend some money and recreate some mouldings, that would be a nice thing to do but that wouldn’t be as critical as someone’s house is leaking,” said Ethel Field, a director of the heritage foundation who coordinates the grant giving.

This year the grant giving went full circle with one going to Cooper to repaint the exterior of the Queen Anne revival style cottage.

Cooper has always loved old homes.

She had no problem having the house designated as heritage back in 1985. She’s proud the home is a historic gem that is a regular stop on the society’s annual tour. Keeping up appearances, though, is never ending.

Last year, she decided to ditch the light beige exterior with burgundy and dark green trim. She applied for a grant, as she has done for other projects, to help make the exterior exceptional.

Created with flickr slideshow.


“It was ready for a paint job, and then I decided to have some fun with the colours,” said Cooper.

She hired colour consultant Kora Sevier. They wanted to brighten up the look.

They yearned to make the home’s decorative details, such as its many scallop-shell design features, really pop. And they had to do it while using a palate of colours true to the era, which is not easy to do.

“Some of those historical colours can be quite dreary,” said Sevier.

They had to take their colour plans to the city because any visual change to exteriors of designated heritage homes requires approval. They nailed it.

The seven-colour palate they chose includes various shades of green, gray, gold and blue with a creamy silk colour for the decorative detail gables and elbow brackets.

Cooper says neighbours are noticing the detail on the brackets, the soffits and windows because they pop instead of being buried in dark colours.

“The (light) green is drawing attention to it,” said Cooper. “They were dark and lost in the heavy colour.”

With this project complete Cooper is ready for a rest from restoration. But even though she’s been fixing it up for nearly 30 years, it won’t be her last project.

“I feel that it’s my duty to the community to see that this house is maintained and kept up for people to enjoy in the neighbourhood,” said Cooper.

• For more information on getting a grant go to

Colour palate for exterior of 431 Fourth St.

  • Knoxville Gray – Lower body, front/back porch, front/back steps
  • Palladian Blue – Upper body, front & back porch ceiling, scalloped sides of dormers
  • Van Courtland Blue – Gutters, trim, soffits, window trim, posts, handrails, support columns, decondative roof scallops
  • Narragansett Green – Inner window trim
  • Greenmount Silk – Decorative detail front gable, elbow brackets and decorative brackets, rounded details on columns & posts, back porch door, scallop decoration & horizontal trim on front porch, & dormer scallops
  • Stuart Gold – Circular detail on buttresses, rounded post sections
  • Caldwell Green – Fence
    (Benjamin Moore brand colours)
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