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Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association Building is a prominent, three-storey brick-clad building 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 contain meeting rooms. Doorways lead to the upper floors and a narrow passageway enters onto a rear service space. It is distinctive for its Italianate-style features, including inverted-U window hoods, segmental-arched structural openings, elaborated façade detailing, bracketted cornice, wrought-iron balconies and tall central flagpole.
The Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association Building 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 further valued as evidence of the dominance of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA), a powerful umbrella organization that governed all the Chinese societies and associations in Victoria. In response to growing anti-Oriental attitudes and legislation, 31 groups in Victoria established the CCBA in 1884. It served as the primary representative body for Chinese people in Canada until the Chinese Consulate was established in Ottawa in 1908. CCBA initiatives included protests against racial discrimination, monitoring the treatment of servants, mediation in disputes over business transactions, contributions for Chinese persons in other parts of Canada and abroad, and the monitoring of medical care offered by Chinese hospitals in British Columbia. This building acted as the headquarters for the CCBA: commercial space occupied the ground floor, offices were located on the second floor and the third floor housed the Palace of All Sages’ and the Chinese Free School. The CCBA was the second brick building to be erected on the 500 block of Fisgard Street with the adjacent On Hing Building (1882) as the first.
The elegant façade of the CCBA Building displays a sophisticated use of Italianate features such as inverted-U window hoods, segmental-arched structural openings complete with a bracketed cornice. Originally, an elaborate three-storey wooden arcade ran the full height of the front façade; after its removal, wrought-iron balconies were installed, still accessible by doorways on each floor level. This flamboyant design was capped with a name plaque and a tall central flagpole, typical of more prominent volunteer associations. The CCBA Building is by prominent Victoria architect, John Teague (1835-1902) who was Victoria’s most prolific architect in the second half of the nineteenth century. His surviving designs include Victoria City Hall (1878-1891), the Masonic Lodge (1878) and the Admiral’s Lodge, Royal Naval Dockyard, Esquimalt (1885). Teague additionally played a role in Victoria’s politics, serving as city councillor and mayor. The CCBA Building displays Teague’s architectural proficiency and denotes the association’s desire to project an image of assimilation into Western society.
Source: City of Victoria Planning Department
Key elements that define the heritage character of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association Building 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 institutional use
- commercial form, scale and massing, as expressed by its three-storey height, rectangular plan, flat roof, and three retail storefronts facing Fisgard Street
- masonry construction, including brick walls, parged window hoods and sills, and granite thresholds
- Italianate elements such as: inverted-U window hoods; segmental-arched structural openings with keystones; cornice with scroll-cut brackets; full-height pilasters dividing the building into three bays; central raised pediment name plaque and flagpole
- Chinese features such as: double-leaf wooden doors leading to upper floors; panelled and glazed wooden doors for access to later, partial-width wrought-iron balconies; sidewall chimneys indicating upper floor occupancy; narrow passageway to service space at rear
- original fenestration, such as: two-over-two double-hung wooden-sash windows with horns, set into segmental-arched openings; ground floor single and double-leaf wooden doors and original segmental-arched transoms
Local Governments (BC)
Local Government Act, s.954
Community Heritage Register
Theme - Category and Type
- Building Social and Community Life
- Community Organizations
Function - Category and Type
- Social, Benevolent or Fraternal Club
- Commerce / Commercial Services
- Shop or Wholesale Establishment
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
City of Victoria Planning Department
Cross-Reference to Collection