Description of Historic Place
The Masonic Temple is a brick building situated at the northwest corner of Fisgard and Douglas Streets in downtown Victoria. The original 1878 portion to the east is two storeys in height; the 1909 addition to the west has two floors of windows in the stairwell above the entry, and a two and one-half storey extension with a rectangular storefront. This landmark structure is notable for its mansard roof, angled corner topped with a square tower and an elaborate pedimented entrance, embellished with Masonic symbols, facing Fisgard Street.
The Masonic Temple is valued for its association with the Masonic order, the world's oldest and largest fraternal organization, and is a significant representation of the development of associations and organizations in early Victoria, dating back to the origins of European settlement. Fraternal organizations such as the Masonic Order were established to provide mutual benefit, enrich community life and assist those in need.
This is the home of the oldest Masonic Lodge in British Columbia, the Victoria Columbia Lodge No.1, founded on March 19, 1859. Less than a year after the Hudson’s Bay Company settlement of Fort Victoria had been inundated by thousands of gold seekers en route to the Fraser River, the Lodge was granted a charter by the United Grand Lodge of England. The Masonic Lodge played an important role in the early years of the city: businessmen met there for both business and socializing; it offered help to members and their families in need, a vital service in a frontier community; and members involved themselves in community events, such as the laying of the foundation stone of the Temple Emanu-El Synagogue in 1863. The Lodge met in rented accommodation until this building was completed in 1878, which has been its home ever since.
The Masonic Temple is an excellent expression of the Second Empire architectural style, designed by prominent local architect John Teague (1835-1902). The style echoes that of Victoria City Hall, also designed by Teague in 1878, as well as the federal Customs House, 1002 Wharf Street, 1873-75. The conscious use of this style reflects the full integration of the Masons within the city’s structure of governance.
Teague was a one-time Worshipful Master of the Lodge, and 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 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. 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 Masonic Temple include its:
- prominent location at the corner at Fisgard and Douglas Streets, at the north edge of downtown Victoria, in visual proximity to Victoria City Hall
- continuous use as the home of the Victoria Columbia Lodge No.1
- institutional form, scale, and massing, as expressed by its: two-storey height built to the property lines; mansard roof; angled corner with angled square tower over; round-arched corner entry with quoins and voussoirs; rectangular storefront openings on both street frontages; elaborate round-arched side entry with Corinthian columns and alternating courses of rough and smooth-dressed stone; attic-level pediment above side entry; and two and one-half storey addition to the west in complementary style with gabled dormer
- masonry construction with brick walls, stone trim, common red-brick side walls, granite columns at the entry, continuous sandstone storefront thresholds and heavy timber frame internal structure
- elements of the Second Empire style details, such as its: mansard roof; cornice with wooden sandwich brackets; round-arched ground floor openings; and segmental-arched window openings on the upper floors with inverted-U window hoods, connected by stringcourses delineating the floors
- Masonic symbols such as compasses, set squares, Corinthian columns topped with stone spheres, and a round stained glass window, with a Seal of Solomon design, set above the entry
- windows, such as its two-over-two double-hung wooden-sash windows, with round-arched two-light transoms, and round-arched, multi-paned ground floor wooden-sash windows
- original wooden storefront elements and entry door elements
- original interior features, including the Grand Lodge rooms with coved ceilings and wainscoting, Masonic fittings including two mahogany columns, and a collection of historic Masonic regalia