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Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Gee Tuck Tong Benevolent Association Building is two stories in height on the north side of Fisgard Street and the periphery of Victoria's Chinatown. It has retail space on the ground floor and multi-paned wooden transoms. The building is distinctive for its slightly asymmetrical façade, which is vertically divided by pilasters into three bays with a tall arched entry to a narrow passageway leading to a separate tenement building at the rear. The second floor features a prominent arcade with recessed balconies. A raised semi-circular plaque is above the parapet and inscribed with the '1903' date of construction, surmounted by a tall flagpole.
The Gee Tuck Tong 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 valued as evidence of the important role of the Gee Tuck Tong Benevolent Association in Victoria’s Chinatown. 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. A second wave of family and clan groups came to Victoria in the 1890s to 1910s and introduced smaller businesses in Chinatown, such as laundries, food stores, medicinal shops and restaurants. These small-scale proprietors pooled their money to purchase land and continued the cultural tradition of forming clan-based associations that offered support to new arrivals from China. The Gee Tuck Tong Benevolent Association was formed by people with the surnames of Chow, Choy, Ng, Yung or Cho, and the Yee Fung Toy Tong was established by people named Lee. In 1903, the two tongs joined forces to buy Lot 605 from Leon Curtat. This building was built with retail stores on the ground floor and association rooms above. Since then the property has continuously remained in Chinese hands, owned by the Chan family since 1949.
Victoria’s Chinatown is expressive of a duality in architecture and cultural landscape. On each block, street façades link together, forming a wall that shields interior spaces and narrow alleyways between and through buildings are linked to central courtyards which were the hidden location of tenements, opium dens, theatres and gambling houses. This configuration allowed the Chinese community to adhere to follow traditional religion, kinship and economic practices while projecting an image of assimilation to Victoria’s Western society. The Gee Tuck Tong Benevolent Society Building exhibits such a duality. Its notable Chinese elements include prominent round-arched second floor arcades, a ‘cheater’ mezzanine, a prominent raised central pediment and flagpole and a narrow passageway to a tenement at the rear.
Source: City of Victoria Planning Department
Key elements that define the heritage character of the Gee Tuck Tong 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 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 two-storey height, rectangular plan, flat roof, ‘cheater’ mezzanine, retail storefronts at the ground floor, and association offices above
- masonry construction, including parged front façade, and common red-brick side and rear walls
- Chinese features such as: tripartite round-arched second floor arcaded openings with impost blocks; recessed balconies; wall of wooden doors and windows in the top floor meeting hall facing the balconies with wood-panelled doors with multi-paned glazing that has stained glass flashing; decorative balustrades; ‘cheater’ mezzanine floor; and a narrow passageway through to the Kong Sin Wing Rooming House at 624½ Fisgard Street
- sheet-metal cornice with modillions
- wooden storefronts with multi-paned transoms
- '1903' plaque on semicircular raised parapet and central flagpole
Local Governments (BC)
Local Government Act, s.967
Theme - Category and Type
- Building Social and Community Life
- Community Organizations
Function - Category and Type
- Commerce / Commercial Services
- Shop or Wholesale Establishment
- Social, Benevolent or Fraternal Club
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
City of Victoria Planning Department
Cross-Reference to Collection