Home / Accueil

Colonial Hotel

547-555 Johnson Street, Victoria, British Columbia, V8W, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1980/11/13

Historic drawing of the Colonial Hotel, 1891, then known as the Colonial Metropole Hotel.; Victoria Illustrated 1891, p.80.
Front elevation
Exterior view of the Colonial Hotel, 2006; City of Victoria, Donald Luxton and Associates, 2006
Front elevation
No Image

Other Name(s)

Grand Central Building
Colonial Hotel
Colonial Metropole Hotel

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2006/10/25

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Colonial Hotel is a three-storey plus lower level brick commercial building, distinguished by its bold sheet-metal facade decoration. It is located mid-block on the south side of lower Johnson Street, within a context of extant late nineteenth century buildings in Victoria's Old Town.

Heritage Value

Built in 1890, the Colonial Hotel is a significant contributing resource in a historical grouping of nineteenth century structures in Victoria's downtown core. This building demonstrates a phase in the City's history when the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway arrived in Victoria in 1888, with its terminus located nearby at the west foot of Pandora Avenue. This railway was regarded as an extension of the transcontinental railway, which had arrived in Vancouver in 1887 and sparked massive building and immigration booms. As an established town, Victoria benefitted from this speculative development, which is illustrated by the concentration of hotels that were built near the railway terminus. The consistent late Victorian streetscapes of lower Yates and Johnson Streets date from this time period. Over time, the economic viability of downtown slumped, leaving many of these older buildings vacant and threatened by demolition. The rehabilitation of this building in the early 1980s for commercial use on the ground floor and residential use on the upper floors was instrumental in spurring other private sector heritage rehabilitations on lower Yates and Johnson Streets.

The Colonial Hotel is additionally valued for its eclectic late Victorian-era architecture. The front facade features distinctive sheet-metal ornamental detailing, one of the city's best examples of the late Victorian era use of prefabricated building elements. Other commercially produced elements, such as the cast-iron columns, were used to embellish this otherwise simple commercial structure. The Colonial Hotel was designed by British-born architect Leonard Buttress Trimen (1846-1892), who obtained several substantial commissions upon his arrival in Victoria in 1887. Before his death he completed over twenty commissions including St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church (1889-90).

Source: City of Victoria Planning and Development Department

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements that define the heritage character of the Colonial Hotel include its:
- location within the historic streetscape of lower Johnson Street, set flush to the front and side property lines with other contemporaneous buildings and an alley through to a rear courtyard space
- ground level retail use with residential accommodations above
- commercial form, scale and massing as expressed through its three storey plus lower level height, symmetrical rectangular plan, basement areaways and flat roof
- masonry construction, including: structural front, side and rear brick walls; flush-struck mortar joints; timber internal frame; and rubble-stone foundations
- Victorian Italianate features such: as horizontally-connected label mouldings and segmental arched window openings
- other exterior features such as round and square-sided cast-iron storefront columns, and recessed storefront entrances with polygonal, mosaic tile floors
- prefabricated galvanized sheet metal elements including: a distinctive cornice incorporating a dog-tooth course and a decorated frieze with an Eastlake-inspired motif and medallions; sheet-metal outer console cornice brackets; and ornamental galvanized sheet-metal pier cladding
- fenestration, such as: rectangular storefront openings; and segmental arched window openings with double-hung 1-over-1 wooden sash windows
- elements of the 1980s rehabilitation, such as the opening into the rear courtyard from the front street



British Columbia

Recognition Authority

Local Governments (BC)

Recognition Statute

Local Government Act, s.954

Recognition Type

Community Heritage Register

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Trade and Commerce

Function - Category and Type


Commerce / Commercial Services
Shop or Wholesale Establishment
Multiple Dwelling


Commerce / Commercial Services
Hotel, Motel or Inn

Architect / Designer

Leonard Buttress Trimen


A.J. Smith

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

City of Victoria Planning and Development Department

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




Related Places



Advanced SearchAdvanced Search
Nearby Places