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Malahat Building / Old Victoria Custom House National Historic Site of Canada

1002 Wharf Street, Victoria, British Columbia, V8W, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1987/11/20

General view of Malahat Building, showing its simple, centralized, block plan on a high basement, 2011.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, Andrew Waldron, 2011.
General view
General view of Malahat Building, showing its three-bay facade with central entry, 2011.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, Andrew Waldron, 2011.
General view
Detail view of Malahat Building, showing its Second Empire style, evident in the mansard roof, 2011.; Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, Andrew Waldron, 2011.
Detail view

Other Name(s)

Malahat Building / Old Victoria Custom House National Historic Site of Canada
Malahat Building / Old Victoria Custom House
Édifice Malahat / ancien édifice de la douane de Victoria

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1874/01/01 to 1875/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2006/01/17

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Malahat Building/Old Victoria Custom House is a three-storey, mansard-roofed, brick building, built in 1874-5. It is located on a waterfront site, overlooking the harbour of the city of Victoria, British Columbia. The formal recognition consists of the building on its legal property at the time of designation.

Heritage Value

The Malahat Building/Old Victoria Custom House was designated a national historic site in 1987 because: it is closely associated with Victoria when the city was the pre-eminent commercial centre on Canada's Pacific Coast; and it is a rare surviving example of a 19th-century Second Empire style federal building.

As the customs house for Victoria from 1875 to 1899, the Malahat Building served the city's import and export trade during a time when Victoria was the busiest centre on the West coast. Mining licenses for the Klondike gold rush were administered here.

The Malahat Building is one of the few surviving examples of the federal buildings erected across Canada by the newly formed government following Confederation. By erecting a series of imposing buildings to provide necessary government services, especially post offices and custom offices, the Dominion government sought to establish a federal presence across the country. Built in 1874-75, the Malahat Building is a relatively plain example of the imposing Second Empire style adopted for these buildings under Thomas Seaton Scott, first Chief Architect of the Department of Public Works (1872-1881). Its modest design and materials are in keeping with the relative size of Victoria at that time.

Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minute, November 1987.

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements which relate to the heritage value of the Malahat Building include:
- its simple, centralized, block plan on a high basement;
- its three-storey elevation, with a roof-top viewing deck;
- its three-bay facade with central entry;
- its Second Empire style, evident in the mansard roof, classicized decorative treatement, and hooded dormers;
- its restrained detailing, including a bracketed wood cornice, stone corner quoins, string courses, and cut-stone window and door trim with keystones;
- its solid brick construction on a stone basement;
- surviving original layout and finishes;
- its location on the waterfront;
- its siting, abutting the sidewalk, on a site sloping down to the shore;
- its broad viewscape of the harbour.

Recognition

Jurisdiction

Federal

Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Historic Sites and Monuments Act

Recognition Type

National Historic Site of Canada

Recognition Date

1987/11/20

Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

n/a

Theme - Category and Type

Governing Canada
Government and Institutions
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design

Function - Category and Type

Current

Historic

Government
Customs Building

Architect / Designer

T.S. Scott

Builder

Maurice Humber

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier

107

Status

Published

Related Places

southeast elevation

Customs House

Customs House is a three-storey Second Empire Style brick and stone building situated on Wharf Street, in the Inner Harbour Precinct of Victoria.

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