Description of Historic Place
The Brackman-Ker Milling Company Building is a two-storey, brick industrial building located at the corner of Broad Street at Pandora Avenue, at the northern edge of Victoria’s historic Old Town. The building is situated across the street from Victoria City Hall and Centennial Square, and is notable for its elegant and understated Edwardian-era design, including its sand-lime brick cladding and segmental-arched windows.
The Brackman-Ker Milling Company Building, built in 1907, is valued as a representation of the industrial uses that were once common throughout Victoria's Old Town, when many different activities, including warehousing, trans-shipment and manufacturing were clustered near the working waterfront. The original warehouse function of this structure is indicated by the line of truck bays that opened to the south and east sides. This was the original location of the Pandora Avenue Wesleyan Methodist Church, a Gothic structure built in 1859 with a 120-foot tower, that was one of the first large churches in Victoria. Its demolition in 1907, and the construction of this building, demonstrated the swift northward growth of the downtown commercial core in the early twentieth century, at a time when Victoria's gateway economy was expanding rapidly.
The Brackman-Ker Milling Company Building is also valued for its association to the Victoria-based Brackman-Ker Milling Company. This successful milling business was founded in 1877 by Henry Brackman (circa 1832-1903), who made his fortune in the Cariboo Gold rush, and James Milne (circa 1860-1915), a Scottish miller and stonecutter. Established as a rolled oats manufacturer in North Saanich, the company dissolved in 1879 but was resurrected when Brackman partnered with David Russell Ker (1862-1923) in 1881. Upon Brackman's death in 1903, Ker took over leadership of the company and began an ambitious expansion throughout Western Canada. The Brackman-Ker Milling Company remained a prominent and successful business until it was bought by Maple Leaf Mills in 1965.
This building is additionally significant as an example of the work of renowned architect Francis Mawson Rattenbury (1867-1935). After immigrating to Victoria in 1892, Rattenbury dominated the architectural profession in British Columbia. Only months after his arrival, at the age of 25, he won the design competition for the new Parliament Buildings in Victoria. Among his many other designs in Victoria are the Bank of Montreal, 1200 Government Street, 1897, the Law Chambers, 45 Bastion Square/1118 Langley Street, 1901, and the centre block of the Empress Hotel, 721 Government Street, 1904-08. Rattenbury also designed the Ker Block, 512-514 Fort Street, for D.R. Ker in 1909.
The Brackman-Ker Milling Company Building is part of an ensemble of historic Late Victorian and Edwardian-era commercial buildings in the area and reflects a shift from the more ornate Victorian styles to a simpler Edwardian-era influence at the start of the twentieth century. Elements of Edwardian-era architecture are present in the building's balanced design, and symmetrical segmental-arched window openings separated by brick pilasters and topped with brick corbelling.
An extensive rehabilitation of the building occurred in 2000 and has contributed to the revitalization of the north end of downtown Victoria. In recognition of the material and social values of the historic buildings of Old Town, the City of Victoria has established policies and incentives that encourage their adaptive re-use and improve their economic viability. Rehabilitated buildings such as this play a critical role in revitalizing the downtown economy, in providing new commercial space and in environmental sustainability.
Source: City of Victoria Planning Department
Key elements that define the heritage character of the Brackman-Ker Milling Company Building include its:
- location at the corner of Broad Street and Pandora Avenue, at the northern edge of Victoria’s historic Old Town and across the street from Victoria City Hall and Centennial Square
- continuous commercial use
- commercial form, scale and massing, as expressed by its two-storey height built to the property lines, rectangular plan, flat roof, and evidence of original truck bays on the south and east sides of the ground floor
- masonry construction, including sand-lime brick front walls, common red-brick side and rear walls, and heavy timber internal structure
- Edwardian-era architectural features, such as segmental-arched window openings, replacement sheet metal cornice, brick corbelling and pilasters
- regular fenestration, such as double-hung one-over-one wooden-sash windows with horns at the second storey and plate-glass windows at the ground floor with three-part transoms
- commemorative plaque attached to the building, marking the site of the Pandora Avenue Wesleyan Methodist Church