R.V. Winch and Company Building
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The R.V. Winch and Company Building is a two-storey, terra cotta façade, salvaged when the original 1912 building was demolished, that has been reinstalled on the side of a 1980s shopping centre.
The R.V. Winch and Company Building is significant for its association with the commercial operations of R.V. Winch & Company, a prominent real estate firm. Richard Vance Winch (1862-1952) typified the new breed of entrepreneurs who arrived on the coast with the transcontinental railway. He was born in Ontario and came to Vancouver in 1886 after working on a railroad gang and as a cowboy, and made his fortune principally in salmon canning and real estate. His success allowed him to build a mansion in the West End of Vancouver, and he drove around the city in a 1910 Rolls Royce. Winch maintained a friendship with architect Thomas Hooper (1857-1935) for many years, and Hooper designed a series of buildings for him starting with Winch’s first commercial store in Vancouver in 1889, his mansion in the West End in 1899-1900, and his flagship headquarters, the lavish Winch Building in Vancouver, 1906-09. Hooper had one of the province's longest running and most prolific architectural careers, designing hundreds of commercial, institutional and residential buildings.
Designed in an austere manner, the façade of the R.V. Winch and Company Building is a superior, elegant example of the Classical Revival style that was popular during the Edwardian years. The classical detailing has been abstracted to its essence, punctuated with an exuberant date plaque above the front entry. The use of monochromatic terra cotta as a lightweight, inexpensive alternative to stone cladding was inspired by the City Beautiful movement, a progressive reform effort that flourished at the end of the nineteenth century. Advocates of the movement believed that the beautification of cities through the introduction of monumental classical grandeur would promote a harmonious social order. Beauty would act as a social control device by inspiring moral and civic virtue among urban populations, and bring North American cities to cultural parity with those of Europe. The Beaux-Arts style was promoted as the most appropriate expression for civic buildings. Its zenith was the Chicago’s World's Columbian Exposition in 1893, orchestrated by Daniel Burnham, a leading proponent of the City Beautiful movement. The 'White City', as the fair came to be known, sparked a continent-wide revival of the classical styles of architecture.
The 25 tonnes of terra cotta that form the façade of the R.V. Winch and Company Building are also significant as an example of the work of famed California manufacturer Gladding, McBean and Company, founded in 1875 and continuing in business today. Gladding, McBean supplied the terra cotta for many high-profile projects in both Vancouver and Victoria, illustrating the importance of the international supply lines that provided sophisticated architectural materials for local building projects.
This façade also represents the epic battle in the 1980s over the Eaton’s Centre, a proposal to build an enormous shopping mall to replace two entire blocks of Old Town. This proposal galvanized the city’s heritage movement, and resulted in the formation of the Save our City Coalition. As part of the final development, ten heritage buildings were demolished. In an attempt to mitigate heritage concerns, the façades of four were re-built to varying degrees of accuracy, while the remainder of the complex was executed in a mock-historical pastiche.
Source: City of Victoria Planning Department
Key elements that define the heritage character of the R.V. Winch and Company Building include its:
- location on Fort Street, in Victoria’s historic Old Town
- two-storey high, symmetrical massing with central entry
- ivory-coloured, smooth-finished terra cotta block cladding
- decorative elements of the Classical Revival style, such as the engaged pilasters, projecting cornice with block modillions, triangular central pediment, and a central arched entry surround with a moulded date plaque inscribed '1912'
- fenestration, including five window openings on the second floor and two rectangular storefron
Local Governments (BC)
Local Government Act, s.954
Community Heritage Register
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Trade and Commerce
Function - Category and Type
- Commerce / Commercial Services
- Shop or Wholesale Establishment
- Commerce / Commercial Services
- Office or Office Building
Architect / Designer
Anderson & Anderson
Location of Supporting Documentation
City of Victoria Planning Department
Cross-Reference to Collection