Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
10-14 Fan Tan Alley is on the west side of Fan Tan Alley in the heart of Victoria’s Chinatown. It is a two-storey vernacular brick building with segmental-arched upper window openings and is slightly higher but almost identical in style to the adjacent Ning Young Building at 4 Fan Tan Alley. 10-14 Fan Tan Alley features two structural bays separated by brick pilasters and wooden storefronts. It is one of nine interconnected buildings and additions with front facades on Fan Tan Alley, a narrow mid-block passageway that links Pandora Avenue to Fisgard Street. There is another mid-block passageway on the north side of the building that leads to the west.
10-14 Fan Tan Alley is valued as part of a grouping of early structures that contribute to the historic character and urban pattern of Victoria's Chinatown, the seminal and oldest intact Chinatown in Canada. 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’s significance lies in the duality of its 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 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.
Located on lots 444 on Fisgard Street and 439 on Pandora Street, the buildings facing Fisgard and Pandora Streets were constructed between 1882 and 1901 with sidewalls that started to define a narrow mid-block passageway. The four remaining infill sites facing Fan Tan Alley were built from 1912 to 1920. 10-14 Fan Tan Alley was constructed circa 1912 to house commercial space on the ground floor and tenements above. One of the most well known gambling dens, the Big Club, was in this building. 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 The Act was repealed in 1947, after which many of the gambling dens in Fan Tan Alley began to close down.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 10-14 Fan Tan Alley. In addition to commercial, institutional and residential projects elsewhere, Watkins had a number of Chinese clients in Chinatown.
Source: City of Victoria Planning Department
Key elements that define the heritage character of 10-14 Fan Tan Alley 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, with a mid-block passageway located to the north side, that leads to the west
- 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, storefronts facing Fan Tan Alley, and upper-floor tenements
- construction materials, including red brick walls with red mortar
- vernacular detailing, such as brick piers, corbelled brick coursing above the upper-storey windows, wooden storefronts with narrow doorways at each end leading to the upper floor, segmental-arched upper floor structural openings and a sheet-metal
- sidewall chimneys, indicating upper-floor occupancy
Local Governments (BC)
Local Government Act, s.967
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Trade and Commerce
Function - Category and Type
- Commerce / Commercial Services
- Shop or Wholesale Establishment
- Multiple Dwelling
Architect / Designer
Charles Elwood Watkins
Location of Supporting Documentation
City of Victoria Planning Department
Cross-Reference to Collection