Description of Historic Place
The Central Building is a six-storey Edwardian-era office block, with Classical Revival detailing, located at the northwest corner of View and Broad Streets in downtown Victoria. The building also fronts onto Trounce Alley and has entrances facing both View Street and Trounce Alley. This landmark structure is notable for its tan-brick cladding and cream-yellow terra cotta trim.
The Central Building, built 1911-12, is symbolic of Victoria's Edwardian-era prosperity and is linked to the continued commercial development of downtown. The initial stages of Victoria's development began after the Gold Rush of 1858 and continued steadily through the Edwardian era, until the advent of the First World War in 1914. A fire in 1910, which resulted in the destruction of the Spencer Arcade, presented a unique opportunity for redevelopment in this well-established section of Victoria's Old Town. The Central Building was the first building built when View Street was extended, and forms a grouping with the adjacent Union Bank Building, 1205 Government Street, built in 1912.
Additionally, the Central Building is significant as a surviving architectural design by Jesse Milton Warren (1889-1953). Warren was born in San Francisco and after completing his training in New York, travelled across Eastern Canada and the United States before settling briefly in Seattle. In 1911, he moved to Victoria and the Central Building was among his first completed local projects. The Central Building is noted for its refined Classical Revival detailing, including highly-detailed terra cotta columns, stringcourses, capitals and cornice blocks. Other examples of Warren's designs in Victoria include the Pantages Theatre, 1912-14 (now the McPherson Playhouse) and the Station Hotel at Store and Pandora Streets for the Phoenix Brewing Company, 1913. Warren returned to Seattle in 1916, where he continued to work as an architect.
The Central Building is additionally valued for its association with prominent Victoria land developers, McPherson, Fullerton Brothers, MacLean & Shandley, who had this building constructed for a cost of $125,000. The firm was comprised of local businessmen, Hugh Archibald MacLean (1857-1949), Thomas Shanks McPherson (1873-1962), Herbert Howard Shandley (1877-1955) and Herbert Mathew Fullerton (1872-1943). The Central Building was home to the firm's offices as well as several other prominent barristers, solicitors, doctors and real estate companies, and Jesse Warren's office. In 1914, the firm dissolved and was replaced by McPherson, Fullerton & Elliot. This successive firm hired Warren to design their other development projects in Victoria, including the Pantages Theatre.
Source: City of Victoria Planning Department
Key elements that define the heritage character of the Central Building include its:
- prominent corner location at View Street, Broad Street and Trounce Alley
- siting on the property lines, with no setbacks
- commercial form, scale and massing as expressed by its six-storey height with basement, rectangular plan and flat roof
- masonry construction, including: reinforced concrete interior structure; tan brick on three main façades, with tan mortar; cream-yellow terra cotta columns, stringcourses, capitals and cornice; and inset marble roundels
- Edwardian-era Classical Revival architectural features, including tripartite façade articulation, engaged pilasters, and classical details including running dentils, egg and dart, and Greek key motifs
- fenestration, including tripartite Chicago-style wooden-sash windows, with fixed central panes and side casements and transoms, and four-over-one double-hung wooden-sash windows on the top floor
- original interior features, including the central lobby with cast-plaster ceiling, marble stairway and panelling and terrazzo floors, interior halls with wooden glazed partitions with arctic glass and hopper transoms, vaults situated on each floor, original doors with hardware, and Cutler mailbox