Description of Historic Place
The Victoria Police Station is the front bay of a four-storey, Italian Renaissance Revival-style structure, located within the Centennial Square complex that includes Victoria City Hall. It is also located across the street from the southern edge of Victoria’s Chinatown. The front façade and the returned side façades feature all-masonry construction, including a granite plinth, rusticated concrete ground floor blocks, quoins and window surrounds, and roughcast stucco walls above the ground floor on the façade and side walls. Only the front bay has been retained as part of a new structure.
The Victoria Police Station is a significant symbol of administration and control, built at a time of rapid growth that necessitated expanded civic services in governing the West. It is a representation of the evolution of the oldest Canadian police force west of the Great Lakes, originally organized as the Colonial Police by James Douglas in 1858 to assist in governing the colony. Built in 1914 to house the expanded Victoria Police, this structure was located within a civic complex that included Victoria City Hall, a fire hall and the city market.
The Victoria Police Station is additionally valued for its imposing architectural expression that projects an image of monumentality by referencing the rusticated blocks, quoins and bracketted cornice typical of the Italian Renaissance Revival style. It is an important surviving design by local architect John Charles Malcolm Keith (1858-1940). Born in Inverness, Scotland, Keith immigrated to North America in 1887 and practiced architecture for brief periods in San Francisco, San Diego, and Seattle before arriving in Victoria in 1891. During his prolific fifty-year career, Keith designed numerous churches, institutional and commercial buildings, and many fine homes throughout British Columbia. His best known building is Victoria’s Christ Church Cathedral, 951 Quadra Street, designed in 1891 in the style of medieval English and French Gothic cathedrals, modified over many years, and finally built between 1926 and 1929.
This structure is also significant as a key component of a 1960s urban renewal scheme known as Centennial Square. This ambitious project, which commemorated Victoria's civic incorporation, was one of the earliest urban revitalization and heritage conservation projects in Canada. Seeking to beautify, modernize and rejuvenate Victoria's depressed city core, the Centennial Square project was part of a larger redevelopment scheme that aspired to revive Victoria's downtown through realignment of streets, demolition of derelict buildings, and the creation of a modern monumental civic space in the heart of the city. A number of historic buildings were retained as part of the Centennial Square project, with the Victoria City Hall, a National Historic Site, as the cornerstone.
Source: City of Victoria Planning Department
Key elements that define the heritage character of the Victoria Police Station include its:
- mid-block location on the south side of Fisgard Street, within the Centennial Square complex that includes Victoria City, and across the street from the southern edge of Victoria’s Chinatown
- institutional form, scale and massing, as expressed by its four-storey height built to the front property line, façade treatment that wraps around each side, and flat roof
- masonry construction, including its concrete structure, granite plinth, cast concrete rusticated ground floor blocks, quoins and window surrounds, and roughcast stucco walls
- Italian Renaissance Revival-style details, such as rusticated ground-floor blocks, quoins, and window surrounds, round-arched window openings and recessed central entrance on the ground floor, and Italianate cornice with oversize scrolled brackets
- original ground floor metal-clad windows, in three-part design with fanlight transom