In 1907, the east side of Government Street between Trounce Alley and Fort Street held a collection of late-19th-century commercial buildings.
The list of businesses illustrates the diversity of this portion of the street.
1211 Government – Lewis and Evans Hub Cigar Store
1209 Government – J. Wenper – jeweller
1207 Government – Heisterman and Co. – insurance
1205 Government – Great Northern Railway Line – railway office
1203 Government – Miss E. L Coffey – dressmaker
1203 Government – Mrs. T. Campbell – chiropodist
1203 Government – Skene Lowe – photographer
1201 Government – Allen and Co. – Fit Reform Wardrobe – quality men’s clothing
1127 Government – T. N. Hibben & Co. – stationery
1123 Government – H. Young & Co. – dry goods
1117 Government – David Spencer – dry goods
1113 Government – Victoria Book and Stationery Co. Ltd.
1111 Government – William Langley – barrister
1111 Government – William Foxall – photographer
1109 Government – Baker Shoe Co. Ltd. – shoe store
1107 Government – Finch and Finch – men’s furnishings
1105 Government – George Morison & Co. – druggists
1101 Government – Five Sisters block: Royal Bank of Canada
Fort Street frontage and office in upper storeys of the Five Sisters Block
1. F. M. Rattenbury – architect
4. Norah Laugher – advertising writer
5. Samuel Maclure – architect
6. John Nicholson – real estate
8. Thomas Parr – surveyor
11. Hooper and Watkins – architects
15. Mason and Mann – barristers
17. Harry Dier – dentist
21. Sedger and Pounall – architects
22. Gavin H. Burns – broker
22. William Wallace Grime – broker
23. Victoria Chess Club
24. John Adair – commission agent
25. John Savannah – photographer
28. Vernon G. Forbes
32. Mrs. Leonore Munoz – domestic
35. Canavan & Mannell – timber and mines
36. Joseph L. Forster – vocal teacher
38. James Patterson
42. V. I. Fire Underwriters
44. R. H. McMillan – commission agent
45. Mrs. Amelia Haggert
46. Miss Woolridge – dressmaker
49. Leonard C. Harris – manufacturing jeweller
22 Other tenants – using building as a residence
In 1910, disaster struck this area when a huge fire destroyed almost every building in the area bounded by Trounce Alley, Government, Fort and Broad Streets; only the Times Building at the northeast corner of Fort and Broad survived. David Spencer who had lost his retail outlet in the fire, seized the opportunity to buy the damaged Driard Hotel and Victoria Theatre for $370,000 giving Spencer’s store frontage on Douglas, View, and Broad Streets. He later sold his growing business to the Timothy Eaton Co.
After the fire, the City decided to continue View Street from Broad Street through to Government, creating new street frontage and creating the street we have today. There was quite a debate about what the new extended street should be called; some called for View as the original View Street had run from the harbour to Cook Street before being permanently closed off in 1858. Others opted for Bastion to continue the street that existed at that time from Wharf Street to Government. A new six-storey commercial building rose on the site between Trounce Alley and the new View Street. Designed by A. Arthur Cox for the Union Bank, and built in 1912, it featured white-glazed terra cotta on the main floor, as quoining blocks, window surrounds, and for the Beaux-Arts cornice. This is now the site of retail on the main floor along both frontages with offices above.
Also lost in the 1910 fire was the Five Sisters block which had been built in 1891 on the northeast corner of Government and Fort Streets, opening just in time for Christmas. Besides the merchandise lost from retail stores, it was a calamity for local architects. All the plans drawn by the virtual who’s who of Victoria architecture were lost.
New buildings arose along this street as well, and all were demolished in 1999 when Cadillac-Fairview built the Eaton Centre (now The Bay Centre) on two complete city blocks, bordered by Government, Fort, Douglas and View (and encompassing Broad Street) in downtown Victoria.
This Hallmark Heritage Society project was funded by the HBC Foundation and the BC150-Heritage Legacy Fund
Project manager and researcher: Helen Edwards
Principal Photography & Consultant: Ron Bukta, West Ventures Photography