537 Johnson Street, Victoria, British Columbia, V8W, Canada
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Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
Willie's Bakery is a two-storey Italianate building located by the Johnson Street entrance to Waddington Alley. It can be identified by its bracketed cornice and ornately decorated mouldings above upper storey windows, and its cast iron storefront columns.
Willie's Bakery is important to the City of Victoria's heritage as a product of late nineteenth century entrepreneurship. Opened as a bakery by miller and baker Louis Wille in 1887, it provides an important reflection of a typical building and business that contributed to the city's boom time between 1886 and 1892, and supported the city's growth as the economic hub of British Columbia.
Custom-built by architect Elmer H. Fisher, it is notable that Willie's Bakery housed the oldest continuous bakery operation in British Columbia's history (Wille's Bakery, 1887-1976). The functional and attractive design is a reflection of the architectural idioms of the time, and illustrates the ability of the architect to articulate the enterprising success of its original owner. Likewise, the fact that this place saw a rebirth in 1989 as Willie's Bakery, after a 23-year hiatus, speaks to the importance of Old Town traditions and the suitability of the architecture to its original purpose.
An important example of intact nineteenth century Italianate architecture, Willie's Bakery also adds to Victoria's physical heritage. It survives as a significant piece of the city's commercial and architectural history, and plays an integral role in the continuity of downtown revitalization. It is a landmark at the Johnson Street entrance to Waddington Alley, and an important part of a precinct of rehabilitated and revitalized buildings which perpetuates the heritage of picturesque streetscapes and promotes urban livability.
Source: City of Victoria Planning and Development Department
The character-defining elements of Willie's Bakery include:
- Its location near the Johnson Street entrance to Waddington Alley.
- Its physical status as a prominent feature of the vista from the Johnson Street Bridge.
- Its two-storey height.
- Historic construction materials such as brick masonry and its sheet metal cornice.
- Its historic design intended for mixed use, with a utilitarian basement, storefront at street level, and living quarters upstairs.
- Its intact storefront, featuring such elements as cast-iron columns, and large windows with transoms.
- Its intact decorative facade detailing, including incised scrolled ornamentation on upper-storey window hoods, and ornate bracketed cornice.
- Its upper-storey double-hung wooden sash windows.
- Its ongoing use as a bakery.
Local Governments (BC)
Local Government Act, s.954
Community Heritage Register
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Trade and Commerce
Function - Category and Type
- Commerce / Commercial Services
- Shop or Wholesale Establishment
Architect / Designer
Elmer H. Fisher
Location of Supporting Documentation
City of Victoria Planning and Development Department
Cross-Reference to Collection