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Ning Young Building

4 Fan Tan Alley, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2001/06/28

Ning Young Building; City of Victoria, 2008
Fan Tan Alley elevation, 2008
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Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2009/12/22

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Ning Young Building is on the west side of Fan Tan Alley in the heart of Victoria’s Chinatown National Historic Site. It is a two-storey vernacular brick building with wooden storefronts with cast-iron columns, arched upper-floor window openings and two doorways to second-storey tenements. This building is slightly lower but almost identical in style to the adjacent building at 10-14 Fan Tan Alley. It is one of nine interconnected buildings and additions that front onto Fan Tan Alley, a narrow mid-block passageway that links Pandora Street to Fisgard Street.

Heritage Value

The Ning Young 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 most intact Chinatown in Canada. In particular, it is part of the final phase of infill in historic Fan Tan Alley.

Seventy-three metres long and between one to two metres wide, and enclosed by nine interconnected buildings and additions, Fan Tan Alley exemplifies the expression of duality in the architecture and cultural landscape of Chinatown. 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 the image of assimilation to Western society. The buildings of Fan Tan Alley are simple, utilitarian structures, which served as a private enclave and refuge for Chinese pioneers.

The properties located on lots 444 on Fisgard Street and 439 on Pandora Street were constructed between 1882 and 1901 with side walls that started to define a narrow mid-block passageway. The four remaining infill sites facing Fan Tan Alley were built from 1912 to 1920. Ning Young Yee Hing Tong was the first owner of 4 Fan Tan Alley (1920) which had commercial space on the ground floor and tenements above. At the time, gambling was on the rise with increased tensions from the impending Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923. The Act was repealed in 1947, after which many of the gambling dens in Fan Tan Alley began to close down. It survives as the only early mid-block passageway that is completely framed by historic buildings.

Western architects were hired to design buildings throughout Chinatown, as the Chinese were shunned as professionals in the building trades. Charles Elwood Watkins (1875-1942), a prolific Victoria architect, designed the Ning Young Building. In addition to commercial, institutional and residential projects elsewhere, Watkins had a number of Chinese clients in Chinatown.

Source: City of Victoria Planning Department

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements that define the heritage character of the Ning Young Building include its:
- location on the west side of Fan Tan Alley, part of a grouping of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century historic masonry buildings in Victoria's Chinatown
- siting on the property lines, with no setbacks
- continuous commercial and residential use
- commercial form, scale and massing, as expressed by its two-storey height, symmetrical rectangular plan, flat roof, two storefronts facing Fan Tan Alley, and upper-floor tenements
- construction materials, including red brick walls with red mortar, and three cast-iron storefront columns
- vernacular detailing such as brick piers, corbelled brick coursing above the upper-storey windows, wooden storefronts and segmental-arched upper-floor structural openings
- metal flat-bar brackets that were original attachments for a sheet-metal cornice



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

Developing Economies
Trade and Commerce

Function - Category and Type


Multiple Dwelling


Commerce / Commercial Services
Shop or Wholesale Establishment

Architect / Designer

Charles Elwood Watkins



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

City of Victoria Planning Department

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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