Description of Historic Place
The Weiler Brothers Warerooms is a three-storey brick building at the northeast corner of Broad and Broughton Streets in Victoria’s historic Old Town. Above the ground floor is a panelled stringcourse; the windows of the second storey have decorative lintels with keystones and partial surrounds. The two main façades meet at a curved bevel, with an entry at the corner. The southern façade has an irregular placement of upper-floor windows that reflects its construction in two stages.
The Weiler Brothers Warerooms, constructed in 1883-84 and substantially enlarged in 1891, is valued as a symbol of Victorian-era prosperity and development and represents Victoria’s rapidly-expanding gateway economy. It is significant for its association with Victoria pioneer John Weiler (1824-1899), who constructed this warehouse and factory for his furniture and crockery business. Weiler arrived in 1861 from California, intending to head to the gold fields of the Cariboo. He instead decided to stay in Victoria and in 1862 opened a household furnishings business. His burgeoning success led him to commission the first portion of this substantial factory and warehouse in 1884. In 1891, John Weiler retired, and turned the business over to his four sons, George, Charles, Otto and Joseph. By then, the building had been tripled in size with an addition to the east, and included a large showroom, display and factory space. Weiler Brothers continued to prosper, and moved to a large new structure at 921 Government Street in 1898.
The Weiler Brothers Warerooms has further value as a vernacular Italianate design by the architect Thomas Trounce (1813-1900). In 1858, Trounce came to Victoria from San Francisco seeking his fortune. He arrived at the height of the Fraser River Gold Rush, and first worked as a builder and contractor. For many years he was responsible for all the building work at the Royal Naval Dockyard at Esquimalt, just west of Victoria. His St. Paul’s Naval and Garrison Church, 1379 Esquimalt Road, Esquimalt, 1866, still exists, and he was also successful with a number of residential commissions, including a large stone house, Armadale, 1876-77 (demolished), for Senator William John Macdonald. Trounce was also active in city politics, and served as the Grand Master of the Masonic Lodge. Trounce Alley, a passageway between Government and Broad Streets, commemorates his legacy as an entrepreneur and land developer.
Additionally, this building was one of the key early projects that initiated the modern revitalization of Victoria's historic Old Town by accommodating a mix of retail and commercial businesses in an under-utilized older structure. The 1972 rehabilitation of this building as the “Counting House” by developer Sam Bawlf, along with efforts to upgrade the buildings surrounding Bastion Square and the development of Market Square, were pioneering initiatives that demonstrated urban revitalization could be balanced with heritage conservation, and that Old Town’s historic buildings could be a vital part of the local economy.
Source: City of Victoria Planning Department
Key elements that define the heritage character of the Weiler Brothers Warerooms include its:
- prominent corner location, at the northeast corner of Broad and Broughton Streets in Victoria’s historic Old Town
- commercial form, scale, and massing, as expressed by its three-storey height, built to the property lines, retail storefronts on both Broughton and Broad Streets, flat roof with stepped parapets, and curved, bevelled corner with entry
- heavy timber-frame internal structure, with red-brick walls and parged window dressings
- Italianate style details, such as decorative window lintels, panelled stringcourse between the first and second floors, segmental-arched upper-floor window openings, and an upper cornice with scroll-cut sandwich brackets
- irregular upper floor fenestration with double-hung two-over-two wooden-sash windows, with two-light transoms on the second floor