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Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The On Hing & Brothers Store is a three-storey, brick-clad commercial and residential building located on the north side of Fisgard Street in the heart of Victoria's Chinatown. The ground floor has retail storefronts, while the second and third storeys are residential, with symmetrical massing and regular fenestration.
The On Hing & Brothers Store is valued as part of a grouping of early buildings that contribute to the historic character and urban pattern of Victoria's Chinatown, the seminal and oldest intact Chinatown in Canada. In the 1850s, exacerbated by political and social turmoil in China, thousands of Chinese migrated from a small region in the southern province of Guangdong to frontier gold rush sites in California, setting up a permanent base in San Francisco. In 1858, the Fraser Gold Rush spurred the movement of Chinese into Canada and the significant port town of Victoria was the primary point of entry into the country for the Chinese until the early twentieth century.
The building is a reminder of the significant role of Chinese settlers in Victoria's development. Large-scale Chinese merchants, already established in San Francisco, moved to Victoria and purchased lots as early as 1858, opening stores backed by funding from the United States. The On Hing & Brothers Store is the product of a second wave of small clan and family proprietors who immigrated to Victoria in the 1890s to 1910s and introduced smaller businesses in Chinatown, such as laundries, food stores, medicinal shops and restaurants. The original owner of this building was the successful mercantile business, On Hing & Brothers Company, that purchased Lot 457 from Robert H. Austen for $1,250. The On Hing Brothers were among Chinatown's most industrious and prominent merchants, and owned numerous properties, including the adjacent lot to the west. The original part of this structure was built in 1882, and was the first brick building to be erected in this block of Fisgard Street and was home to the On Hing Brothers' cigar factory, once a thriving industry in Victoria.
Typical of Chinatown, the On Hing & Brothers Store has commercial space on the ground floor and tenements above. The 1882 portion of the structure featured a symmetrically massed, brick-clad front facade with a central pediment and regular fenestration. In 1914, during the Edwardian era, the western portion of the building was constructed, and the decorative parapet of the eastern side was removed, uniting the two buildings with a common cornice and window treatment. The enlarged structure indicates the economic success that Chinatown was enjoying at the time.
Source: City of Victoria Planning Department
Key elements that define the heritage character of the On Hing & Brothers Store include its:
- mid-block location on Fisgard Street, part of a grouping of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century historic masonry buildings in the heart of Victoria's Chinatown
- siting on the front and side property lines, with no setback
- continuous commercial and residential use
- commercial form, scale and massing, as expressed by its three-storey height, rectangular plan, symmetrical massing, regular fenestration, flat roof, ground floor storefronts facing Fisgard Street, and residential use above
- masonry construction including red-brick walls
- sheet-metal cornice with modillions and metal fire escapes
Local Governments (BC)
Local Government Act, s.954
Community Heritage Register
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Trade and Commerce
Function - Category and Type
- Commerce / Commercial Services
- Eating or Drinking Establishment
- Commerce / Commercial Services
- Shop or Wholesale Establishment
- Multiple Dwelling
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
City of Victoria Planning Department
Cross-Reference to Collection