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Customs House

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

Formally Recognized: 1975/03/13

Exterior view of the Customs House, 2004.; City of Victoria, 2004
southeast elevation
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Other Name(s)

Customs House
Old Victoria Custom House
Malahat Building

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2004/08/17

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

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

Heritage Value

Customs House (1874) is valued as the first federal building constructed in Victoria after British Columbia entered Confederation; it is the original embodiment of the federal government's presence in the city. The associative value of this place resides in its distinct nineteenth century governmental style - adopted from French and American examples - and its prominent location within Victoria's historic townscape.

This building is significant as one of few remaining works constructed under the tenure of T.S. Scott, Canada's first Chief Architect of Public Works. Customs House is the earliest example in British Columbia of Canada's first distinctive national architectural style - the Second Empire Style elements, such as the mansard roofline of this building are reflective of standard architectural vocabulary of late nineteenth century public works across Canada. Its traditional form is indicative of its regulatory functions within Victoria's harbour; the lower receiving floor and upper offices surmounted by a roof-top viewing deck allowed for convenient physical and visual access to the water.

The prominent position of Customs House on Wharf Street is integral to its historic value. This free-standing building is a surviving testament to the federal desire to control western Canada, and its unmistakable dominance over what was once an active international seaport is representative of its function as a centre for the extension of Dominion law and order over British Columbia's lucrative commercial activities in the late nineteenth century.

Source: City of Victoria Planning and Development Department

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of the Customs House include:
- the prominent free-standing position of this building on Wharf Street, and the contiguous relationship of the building with the waterfront;
- the unimpeded view of the building from the harbour, and the commanding view from the building of the harbour heads;
- the distinctive silhouette and form of the building, articulated by its three-storey massing and mansard roof;
- the uniform treatment of all four facades of the building;
- the Second Empire Style design elements, such as quoining, dormer windows, hooded windows, bracketed eaves, slate roof, and brick and stone cladding.



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

Governing Canada
Government and Institutions

Function - Category and Type


Commerce / Commercial Services
Office or Office Building


Customs Building

Architect / Designer

T.S. Scott



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

City of Victoria Planning and Development Department

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




Related Places

General view

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

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…


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