This 1903 heritage house, in the heart of Downtown Duncan, was a labour of love both to save and to restore. The entire community banded together in the spring of 1999 – when plans to level the home and turn the site into a parking lot were made public (following the tragic death of its owner and resident, Mary Newman). Fundraising efforts of all kinds – from art auction and gala dinner to garage sale and government lobby – gathered cash, supplies, expertise and goodwill. But it was a tight race to the deadline of June 30 and the hardworking troupe of local community workers and heritage enthusiasts were at risk of losing the Newman home until an 11th-hour donation by businessman Robert Milman saved the day. On July 14, 1999, The Green Door Society was formed – with David Coulson as President of the Board of Directors – and the physical work of restoring this unique structure and its 10,000 square feet of garden space began. Improvements made by The Green Door Society and countless volunteers, with David Coulson Design as the primary contractor (donating an estimated $100,000 in labour and design/build expertise), included:
- new plumbing, wiring, and plaster throughout
- period fixtures and trim refinished to match original woodwork
- full height basement addition with kitchen facility and stairwell access to garden level
- solarium addition to ground floor with shared deck for second floor professionals
- complete mapping of heritage garden and planting of native varieties, with interpretive signage for self-guided tours
- total survey of all trees on the property and the creation of Duncan’s first tree preservation bylaw
The ‘Green Door’, as it has come to be known, was built before plumbing, telephone, or electricity service existed in the City of Duncan. Now, it is home to 7 modern offices (among them a naturopath, a lawyer and a federal constituency HQ) and one bachelor suite. The house and grounds have served host to art exhibitions, en plein air seniors’ dining, summer festivals, and live theatre productions. More than simply one more old house saved from the wrecking ball, this project serves as a leadership example to all residents, merchants, policy makers, and visitors in Downtown Duncan. It forms an invaluable part of the architectural heritage of the city, a much-needed green space within the downtown (open to the public year round) and a vibrant community space for education, commerce, and the arts.