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Bank of British Columbia

1020-1022 Government Street, Victoria, British Columbia, V8W, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1975/11/27

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

Bank of British Columbia
Spirit of Christmas
Bank of B.C. Building

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2004/08/17

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Bank of British Columbia is a three storey Italianate Style building on the corner of Government and Fort Streets.

Heritage Value

The Bank of British Columbia (1885-86) is valued as an architectural gem reminiscent of Victoria's late-nineteenth century economic prosperity. As the Canadian headquarters of the Bank of British Columbia, and the most sophisticated and costly structure of its kind in the province at the time of its construction, this bank reflects the economic optimism which assumed that Victoria would become the western terminus for the Canadian Pacific Railway, and would continue to prosper as the centre of west coast commerce.

Designed by architect W.H. Williams to make ideal use of this prominent corner lot, this building epitomizes the image of nineteenth-century banking, and is an excellent example of the detailed use of the Classical idiom favoured for commercial architecture in that time period. The location of this building is significant, as it reflects the early grandeur of Government Street as a major commercial and financial artery of the city. It is a prominent landmark, and its composition of local building materials and distinctive decorative elements - such as cast-iron features made locally by the historic Albion Iron Works - makes it significant to the continuity of the historic streetscape in the Old Town district.

The Bank of British Columbia has an interesting historic association with noted Canadian poet and novelist, Robert Service, who worked for the Bank and occupied one of the upstairs apartments in the building.

Source: City of Victoria Planning and Development Department

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of the Bank of British Columbia building include:
-the prominent position of the building on its corner lot, its faceted corner facade, and the use of its authentic corner entrance;
-the sophisticated use of cast-iron elements such as pilasters, sills, and lintels, and the identification of these elements with the Albion Iron Works;
-the Renaissance Revival elements, such as symmetrical fenestration, arched pediments, balconies with decorative brackets, and the pediment above the cornice;
-the decorative elements such as friezes with sunflower motif, roundels depicting Mercury, and crests of the Bank of British Columbia;
-authentic interior elements dating to the time of construction, such as cast iron columns and woodwork
- interior spatial configurations which relate to its original design, such as the large open floor plan of the first floor.



British Columbia

Recognition Authority

Local Governments (BC)

Recognition Statute

Local Government Act, s.967

Recognition Type

Heritage Designation

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Trade and Commerce

Function - Category and Type


Commerce / Commercial Services
Office or Office Building


Commerce / Commercial Services
Bank or Stock Exchange

Architect / Designer

Warren H. Williams


Smith and Clark

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

City of Victoria Planning and Development Department

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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