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B.C. Legislature

501 Belleville Stret, Victoria, British Columbia, V8V, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1995/01/19

Exterior view of the B.C. Legislature, 2004.; City of Victoria, Liberty Walton, 2004.
North elevation.
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Other Name(s)

B.C. Legislature
Legislative Building

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1893/01/01 to 1898/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2004/10/05

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The British Columbia Legislature is a massive Richardsonian Romanesque landmark building, surrounded by manicured lawns, fountains, and statues, on the south shore of the Inner Harbour.

Heritage Value

The British Columbia Legislature is valued as the most significant political, social, and architectural landmark in British Columbia. Initiated in 1893 to boost the local economy and to ensure the city's retention of the seat of government, the Legislature is representative of the history of the political activities and governmental regulation which have occurred in Victoria since colonial times.

Constructed on the site of the 'Birdcages', a complex of colonial administrative buildings, the location of the Legislature is of key significance to its heritage value. Situated on a large portion of land and surrounded by manicured lawns, fountains, and commemorative statues, the Legislature is a monument to the beginnings of the expressive city planning which shaped the Inner Harbour Precinct. This building's prominent location on the harbour - and its juxtaposition with the Empress Hotel - express noted architect Francis Mawson Rattenbury's vision for this area, which intended to manifest Victoria's economic and governmental prestige and refinement through the development of architecture and landscape. The Legislature, as the first major building in the Inner Harbour, was designed to introduce a formal and impressive silhouette between the shoreline and the mountainous backdrop, and set the scene for subsequent monumental construction which would occur nearby in the early twentieth century.

Chosen from 65 entries in an open competition, the Legislature design is the most prestigious example of Rattenbury's work. This design, inspired by British and American mainstream governmental architecture of the time, met all stipulations for a building which was to house the Legislative Assembly, Land Registry, Printing Office and various administrative departments under one roof, and was deemed well suited to portray the reputable, broad-minded, and cultivated nineteenth century image of British Columbia. Architecturally, the 1890s section of the Legislature, and Rattenbury's subsequent 1911 east and west wings and 1915-16 library, comprise the province's most edifying building. Its monolithic stone construction, massive domes and arches, extensive exterior statuary, and the grand and lavish interior spaces and layout epitomize the sense of dignity and depth of history associated with British Columbia's governmental heritage.

Notably, the Legislature was built using, whenever possible, local people, products, and resources; its interior and exterior finishes exemplify the design virtues of such local materials as maple and cedar, and Nelson Island granite, Haddington Island andesite, and Jarvis Inlet slate.

Furthermore, it is interesting to note that the silhouette of the Legislature was illuminated with electric lighting in 1897 for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, one year before the building was completed, and has continued to be illuminated at night ever since.

Source: City of Victoria Planning and Development Department

Character-Defining Elements

The character defining elements of the British Columbia Legislature include:
- the prominent position of the building within the Inner Harbour Precinct;
- the contiguous and spatial relationship between the Legislature and the Empress Hotel;
- the unimpeded views between the Legislature and the Inner Harbour waterway;
- the situation of the building within the context of a manicured English lawn;
- commemorative fountains and statues on the Legislative grounds, such as the statue of Queen Victoria, the War Memorial, and the statue of Captain Cook;
- the exterior architectural design relevant to Rattenbury's designs of the 1890s, 1911 and 1915-16, including such elements as the monolithic massing, granite, andesite, and slate cladding, arched windows and doorways, numerous domes (in particular the large central dome), and the English eighteenth century tripartite plan of the original central structure;
- exterior decorative elements, including statuary of prominent local historic figures;
- the exterior electric lighting which highlights the building's silhouette at night;
- interior spatial configurations relevant to Rattenbury's original designs;
- interior details, materials, and finishes, such as maple and cedar woodwork, plasterwork, marble, and stained glass windows, which relate to Rattenbury's original designs;
- the Legislative Chambers.



British Columbia

Recognition Authority

Local Governments (BC)

Recognition Statute

Local Government Act, s.954

Recognition Type

Community Heritage Register

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1911/01/01 to 1911/01/01
1915/01/01 to 1916/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Governing Canada
Politics and Political Processes

Function - Category and Type



Legislative Building

Architect / Designer

Frances Mawton Rattenbury



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

City of Victoria Planning & Development Department

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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