Description of Historic Place
515-527 1/2 Pandora Avenue is a long masonry commercial building, two storeys in height, with a full lower level exposed to the rear courtyard. It is part of Market Square, a rehabilitated complex of late nineteenth century buildings that comprise the western half of a full block, with continuous historic streetfronts along three major streets and a central courtyard behind, in Victoria's Old Town.
515-527 1/2 Pandora Avenue is a significant contributing resource to a key historic grouping of nineteenth-century structures in Victoria's Old Town that marks the southern edge of the expansion of Victoria's original Chinatown (now a National Historic Site). This block, bounded to the north by Pandora Avenue and to the south by Johnson Street, was once part of the course of the Johnson Street Ravine, a swamp that marked the boundary between the European business area to the south and Chinatown to the north. During the 1880s, the wooden shacks on the north side of the ravine were replaced with utilitarian commercial blocks housing Chinese businesses, spurred by the dramatic increase in the local Chinese population after the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed. The announcement of a land grant to the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway in 1883, and its completion in 1888, sparked a construction boom in Victoria of stores and hotels around the terminus at the west foot of Pandora Avenue. The south side of the block was filled with more elaborate buildings, such as hotels and commercial enterprises run by Europeans, illustrating the physical and cultural divide within the early city. Accessed by alleyways cut through the buildings, the large open space in the centre of the block remains as a significant representation of the interconnected network of courtyards and alleyways in Old Town. These alleyways provided service areas and access which were important to the commercial functions of these buildings.
Built in two halves, this structure is also significant for its late Victorian era architecture. The western half was built in 1888 and later extended to the east in 1900, demonstrating how buildings expanded to meet Victoria's growing commercial needs. Typical of historic usage in downtown Victoria, the structure exhibits street-level retail space, and a clear division into smaller retail units. The second floor doorways illustrate that this building, similar to others of the same vintage, once had a continuous wooden front arcade and balcony.
515-527 1/2 Pandora Avenue is valuable for its association with its original owner. Joseph Westrop Carey (1829-1910), a prominent local businessman who emigrated from Ireland in 1845, participated the Californian gold rush, served as a Victoria city councillor from 1869 to 1871 and was elected mayor in 1884.
Additionally, this building represents Market Square's role in the modern revitalization of Victoria's historic downtown core. In the 1970s, Sam Bawlf and his brother, architect Nick Bawlf, pioneered private sector revitalization in Victoria by creating Market Square, a half-block of contiguous rehabilitated heritage buildings that framed a partly covered central courtyard, housing a vibrant urban environment with boutiques, restaurants, offices, and performance space. Seeking to reactivate Victoria's depressed downtown core with this massive project, the Bawlfs balanced urban revitalization with heritage conservation. The preservation of the open space in the central courtyard is a key feature that recalls the integral role of these secondary spaces in Victoria's commercial activities.
Source: City of Victoria Planning and Development Department
Key elements that define the heritage character of 515-527 1/2 Pandora Avenue include its:
- location within Market Square and the historic streetscape of Pandora Avenue, set flush to the front and side property lines with other contemporaneous buildings, on a south-sloping lot that exposes the lower level at the rear
- continuous commercial and retail use
- commercial form, scale and massing as expressed by its two-storey plus lower level, cubic form, basement areaways and flat roof
- masonry construction, including: structural front, side and rear brick walls; timber internal frame; rubble-stone foundations; parged window sills; and granite door thresholds
- Italianate style details such as tall windows with segmental arched window heads and simple front and rear corbelled brick cornices
- additional exterior details include a straight parapet incorporating recessed panels, with an arched parapet in the westernmost (1888) portion of the facade; red-brick projections above parapet; keystones; simple cornice and stringcourses; second-storey (balcony) doorways, with glazed doors and double-paned transom lights; individual first-storey access to each upper-storey suite, through narrow doorway openings with round-headed arches; glazed double doors with multi-paned transom lights to each storefront; and first and second-storey doorways on the rear elevation
- irregular fenestration with: rectangular storefront openings; recessed, double-hung 2-over-2 wooden sash second-storey front elevation windows with window horns; and double-hung 4-over-4 wooden sash windows on the rear elevation
- elements of the 1970s rehabilitation, such as the rear decks, openings into the rear courtyard from the front street, projecting metal balconies on front façade, and stairways to upper floors