Description of Historic Place
The King Edward Hotel consists of two early three-storey brick buildings in Victoria’s historic Old Town, later consolidated and used as a single structure. The older structure is the Nicholles & Renouf Hardware Building, located at the corner of Yates and Broad Streets. The adjacent structure to the east was originally the Allsop & Mason Block, located on the south side of Yates Street between Broad and Douglas Streets. The ground floors of both buildings consist of commercial storefronts. The upper floors of the Nicholles & Renouf Hardware Building have brick pilasters and parged window sills, and an angled corner. The upper floors of the Allsop & Mason Block have bays delineated with pilasters, and window openings outlined with rough-dressed stone trim. The westernmost bay of the Allsop & Mason Block is narrower than the other two, and is marked with vertical rows of projecting brick above the second-storey window.
The King Edward Hotel is of value as a tangible expression of Victoria’s resource-era boom, reflecting the tumultuous economic growth that was largely due to the exploitation of coal in Nanaimo, timber resources in Southern Vancouver Island and the completion of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway. This historic landmark also illustrates the importance of English investment in the development of Victoria’s gateway economy. The earlier of the two parts of the building was built in 1885 for T.D. Galpin, designed by architect Thomas Trounce. When completed, it was occupied by Nicholles & Renouf, dealers in agricultural implements, hardware and bar iron and steel. In 1888, the Nicholles & Renouf Building was acquired by the Canadian Pacific Land & Mortgage Company (CPLMC), a London-based firm for which the British Columbia Land & Investment Agency (BCLIA) acted as agents; the two firms shared a number of directors. The BCLIA had originated with Thomas Allsop & Company, founded in Victoria in 1862 by Thomas Allsop (died 1902) as an estate, financial and insurance agency. He was joined by Henry Slye Mason (died 1899) in the late 1870s, and the firm was restyled Allsop & Mason. In 1887, the BCLIA was incorporated to carry on the business of Allsop & Mason. With a head office in London, and offices in Victoria, Vancouver and Nanaimo, the BCLIA promoted and managed investment in land, mortgages, and insurance in British Columbia. Wealthy British investors, unable to find profitable investments at home, turned to investments in the colonies, which included safe and high-yield opportunities, particularly in the years following the arrival of the railway.
The adjacent building to the east was built by the BCLIA in 1891. It was originally occupied by a hotel, the New York House, indicating the growing need at the time for accommodation that supported the development of Victoria as a global tourism destination. The two adjacent buildings, both owned by the BCLIA, were later consolidated as one large operation, the King Edward Hotel, established in 1901. In 1906, a third floor was added to the Nicholles & Renouf building to accommodate its expanded operation. Popular with travelling businessmen, by 1912 it had a total of 98 bedrooms, 48 with attached baths, and a 78-seat dining room.
The King Edward Hotel has additional value for its construction history and the architects who worked on the design of the two structures. The original Nicholles & Renouf Hardware Building was 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 worked as a builder and contractor as well as an architect. Trounce was also active in city politics, and served as the Grand Master of the Masonic Lodge. The third floor of the structure was designed in 1906 by renowned architect Francis Mawson Rattenbury (1867-1935). After immigrating to Victoria in 1892, Rattenbury dominated the architectural profession in British Columbia.
The original Allsop & Mason Block is significant as a rare representative of the influence of the Romanesque Revival architectural style, with its use of characteristic round-headed arches and rough-dressed stonework. Its architect, John Teague (1835-1901), was the house architect for the BCLIA from 1884 to 1894. During his prolific 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, and his clients included most of the city’s leading businessmen for whom he built commercial as well as residential buildings.
Source: City of Victoria Planning Department
Key elements that define the heritage character of the King Edward Hotel include its:
- location on the south side of Yates Street in Victoria’s historic Old Town
- continuous commercial use
Nicholles & Renouf Hardware Building
- commercial form, scale, and massing, as expressed by its three-storey height, built to the property lines, angled corner, and flat roof
- masonry construction, with red-brick walls and parged window sills and stringcourses
- vernacular Italianate-style details such as the pilasters and corbelled detailing
Allsop & Mason Block
- commercial form, scale, and massing as expressed by its three-storey height, built to the property lines, and flat roof
- masonry construction, with red-brick walls and rough-dressed stone trim
- Romanesque Revival-style details, such as the round-arched window heads on the third floor, pilasters, stringcourses of rough-dressed stone, projecting diagonal brick pattern above the former entry, and segmental-arched window openings on the rear façade