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Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Odd Fellows Hall is a two-storey, stucco-clad masonry building located at the northeast corner of Fort and Wharf streets in the heart of Victoria’s Old Town. It features a distinctive Italianate ground floor arcade. The extension to the north, originally one storey high, has an addition of two floors. This building is a key part of a group of 1860s buildings once known as Commercial Row.
The Odd Fellows Hall is valued as a record of the early development of Victoria as the most important commercial port on Canada’s west coast, a position that it held until the end of the nineteenth century. The Odd Fellows Hall is among the earliest commercial structures built along this section of Wharf Street, on land that had formerly been in front of the main entrance to the Hudson's Bay Company's fort. The arrival of over 30,000 miners en route to the gold fields of the Fraser River in 1858, and the rush to the Cariboo three years later, brought drastic changes to the settlement. The most important shift was the arrival of independent merchants and traders, all of whom wanted access to the valuable water lots. Beginning in 1860, a line of brick and stone commercial buildings was constructed, facing the wharves, along the east side of Wharf Street, of which this is one. All the structures in this row, which was known as Commercial Row, have survived, and this corner structure is an important component of this heritage grouping. The Odd Fellows Hall, built in 1862, and expanded three years later, is significant as an element of this phase of the evolution of the city.
Additionally, the Odd Fellows Hall is valued for its early association with the International Order of Odd Fellows. Fraternal organizations such as the Odd Fellows and the Freemasons were vitally important in frontier societies. It was within such societies that people met for business and companionship, for assistance in settling in a new environment, and aid in times of trouble. In Victoria, a group of businessmen were meeting informally prior to obtaining a charter as Victoria Lodge Number 1, in February 1864. Formal meetings were conducted in rooms on the ground floor of this building, owned by Thomas Golden, the well-known proprietor of the Brown Jug Saloon. In 1865, the members of the Lodge commissioned architect Richard Lewis (1824-1875) to design an additional storey for use as a dedicated Odd Fellows Hall. The Lodge continued to meet here until it moved into its new building on Douglas Street in 1879, a structure that is still used by the Odd Fellows Lodge.
The Odd Fellows Hall is also significant as an early surviving design by Lewis, who arrived in Victoria in 1858 from San Francisco, where he had worked as an architect and builder. Lewis designed all the commercial buildings along Commercial Row, reflected in the consistent use of an Italianate idiom that, despite some later modifications, is still evident.
Source: City of Victoria Planning Department
Key elements that define the heritage character of Odd Fellows Hall include its:
- location on a prominent corner lot at Fort and Wharf Streets
- siting on the property lines, with no setbacks
- commercial form, scale and massing as expressed by its two-storey height and low-hipped roof on south portion
- masonry construction, including brick now covered with later parging
- Italianate-style details, such as ground-floor arcading with shadow banding
- 'Erected 1863 A.D.' embossed sign
Local Governments (BC)
Local Government Act, s.967
Theme - Category and Type
- Building Social and Community Life
- Community Organizations
Function - Category and Type
- Commerce / Commercial Services
- Eating or Drinking Establishment
- Social, Benevolent or Fraternal Club
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
City of Victoria Planning Department
Cross-Reference to Collection