Description of Historic Place
The Southgate & Lascelles Building is a two-storey brick building located on the northwest corner of Fort and Government Streets in Victoria’s historic Old Town. The upper storey has sets of triple windows with elaborate pedimented surrounds and a bracketed cornice; on the Government Street façade the lower storey has store fronts with cast-iron columns.
The Southgate & Lascelles Building is significant as an illustration of two phases of the early development of Victoria’s emerging gateway economy. The ground floor was built in 1869, on land that had previously been part of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Fort Victoria, and illustrates the increasing importance of traders independent of the Company and the development of Victoria as a frontier boom town. It was noted in the Colonist at the time that 'we cannot cite a better proof of confidence in coming prosperity.'
This was one of the earliest commercial structures to use cast-iron storefront columns, allowing the maximum extent of storefront glazing, important both for the use of natural light and the display of goods. The second floor was added in 1887, demonstrating the resource boom era initiated by the building of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway, and the anticipated benefits from the Canadian Pacific Railway terminus at Vancouver, then still a mill town on Burrard Inlet. The Southgate & Lascelles Building is of aesthetic value both for its decorative elements and as a complement to its surrounding buildings on Government Street; the regular arrangement of triple windows on the second storey and the decorative cornice are fine Italianate characteristics.
This historic landmark is additionally significant for its association with James Johnson Southgate and Horace Douglas Lascelles (1835-1869) who commissioned the building. Southgate was a retired ship’s master who came to Victoria from San Francisco in 1859, and went into business as a commission and general merchant. He was a prominent citizen who founded the Masonic Lodge, and was a member of the legislature for Salt Spring Island. He retired to England in 1865, and died at London in 1894. Southgate’s legacy is commemorated in numerous place names throughout British Columbia, such as Southgate River and Southgate Peak.
The site is also significant as an example of the work of two architects, Richard Lewis (1824-1875) who designed the original section, and John Teague who designed the additions. Lewis arrived in Victoria, via Chile and San Francisco, with the horde of miners in search of Fraser River gold. In the business and building boom of the early 1860s that followed the discovery of gold in the Cariboo district, Lewis designed all the buildings along the section of Wharf Street known as Commercial Row, then the business centre of town. All these were in the Italianate architectural style and all survive. Lewis played an active role in fraternal societies, such as the Pioneer Society and the Deluge Fire Company, and served as Mayor for part of 1872.
John Teague (1835-1901) was Victoria’s most prolific architect of the nineteenth century. Born in Cornwall, England, Teague followed the lure of gold, first in California and then in the Fraser Valley. After some time in the gold fields, he settled in Victoria in 1860, where he lived and worked until his death. Teague served the city as councillor in 1885, and as mayor for two terms, 1892 and 1893. During his career Teague designed over 350 buildings, mostly in Victoria. He was adept at all the current architectural styles, ranging from Italianate to Queen Anne Revival. For many years he was the architect for the Royal Navy at the Dockyard and Hospital at Esquimalt. His clients included most of the city’s leading businessmen for whom he built commercial as well as residential buildings. Four of his buildings in Victoria: City Hall, #1 Centennial Square 1878-91; St. Ann’s Academy, 835 Humboldt Street 1886; Church of Our Lord, 626 Blanshard Street, 1875-76; and the Pemberton Memorial Operating Room, 1900 Fort Street, 1896; and five buildings in the Historic Naval District, Esquimalt, 1888-91, are designated as National Historic Sites.
Source: City of Victoria Planning Department
Key elements that define the heritage character of the Southgate & Lascelles Building include its:
- location at the corner of Government and Fort Streets, in Victoria’s historic Old Town
- commercial form, scale, and massing, as expressed by its two-storey height built to the property lines, rectangular plan, and flat roof
- construction materials, such as red-brick walls with parged details, sheet metal cornices and window hoods, and cast iron storefront columns
- Italianate-style details such as: pedimented window surrounds; projecting cornice with dentils, large paired brackets and running smaller brackets; pilasters; and stringcourses delineating the floor levels
- double-hung two-over-two wooden-sash windows, with horns, arranged in sets of three on the upper floors
- inset white marble sign on the second storey, south side inscribed: 'Southgate & Lascelles Building. Erected A.D. 1869'