Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
Helmcken House is a one-storey log house, with two distinctive two-storey wood-frame additions. The house faces Elliott Street Square beside the Royal BC Museum on a slight rise of land that looks north to downtown Victoria, BC.
Helmcken House is significant because it was the home (1853 to 1920) of Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken, first speaker of an elected assembly in British Columbia, one of the three negotiators of British Columbia's entry into Confederation, early Vancouver Island doctor, and founding president of the British Columbia Medical Association. It is also an excellent example of the evolution of wooden, vernacular houses in nineteenth-century British Columbia.
The original shingle-clad, squared-log structure, begun by Hudson's Bay Company workers in 1852, is one of the few surviving intact examples in British Columbia of piece-sur-piece construction. The dining room addition, clad with cedar shingles, added ca. 1856, is a good example of vernacular post and beam construction. The two-story gabled balloon-frame addition with its front verandah, built ca. 1889 for the doctor's youngest daughter, was professionally built, its mass-produced drop siding contrasting with the cedar shingles of the earlier wings.
Heritage value is also derived from Helmcken House's location beside the site of Sir James Douglas's home (demolished). Upon marriage to the eldest Douglas daughter, Helmcken built his house to be next door to his in-laws. The two houses were among the first substantial houses built outside Fort Victoria, marking the beginning of James Bay, Victoria's earliest residential neighbourhood. Purchased by the provincial government in 1939, Helmcken House is also significant as the first provincially owned historic site in British Columbia.
Source: BC Heritage Branch properties files
The character-defining elements of Helmcken House include:
- physical features remaining from the residency of Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken
- the house's three distinctive styles, construction techniques and exterior colours
- the original location of the house
- the spatial configuration of the stairways and of the interior rooms and corridors on both floors
- original woodwork and interior surfaces throughout the house
- the furnishings and layout of the doctor's bedroom, which his daughter preserved as a shrine to her father after his death in 1920
Province of British Columbia
Heritage Conservation Act, s.9, s.13(1)(a)
Provincial Heritage Site (Designated)
1889/01/01 to 1889/01/01
1939/01/01 to 1939/01/01
Theme - Category and Type
- Peopling the Land
Function - Category and Type
- Historic or Interpretive Site
- Single Dwelling
Architect / Designer
Hudson's Bay Company
Location of Supporting Documentation
BC Heritage Branch properties files
Cross-Reference to Collection