Home / Accueil

H. Saunders Grocery and Liquor Store

561-563 Johnson Street, Victoria, British Columbia, V8W, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1995/01/19

Exterior view of H. Saunders Grocery and Liquor Store, Johnson Street facade, February 2006  ; City of Victoria, Berdine J. Jonker, 2006
North elevation
Exterior view of H. Saunders Grocery and Liquor Store, Oriental Alley elevation, February 2006.; City of Victoria, Berdine J. Jonker, 2006
East elevation
No Image

Other Name(s)

H. Saunders Grocery and Liquor Store
Victoria Paper Box Building

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2006/10/25

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

H. Saunders Grocery and Liquor Store is a two storey Italianate building located on the south side of Johnson Street at Oriental Alley. It has distinctive tri-partite upper storey windows made up of central arched lights flanked on each side by two small rectangular panes. The storefront design of this building includes a large arched entranceway which leads into the Paper Box Arcade, a residential and retail complex in the Old Town District.

Heritage Value

Designed in 1890 by architect Leonard Buttress-Trimen and erected by architects Elford & Smith, this custom store and warehouse, built for the expanding business of Mr. Henry Saunders, is a reflection of the growth of Victoria as the key supply centre and main urban hub of BC in the late nineteenth century. H. Saunders Grocery and Liquor Store was one of the largest and best-appointed establishments of its kind in the city, supplying the Royal Navy at Esquimalt, gold rush miners, and the citizens of Victoria with necessities ranging from groceries to cigars. The fact that Mr. Saunders kept his successful business on Johnson Street after it outgrew two earlier locations nearby illustrates the prosperity and importance of this area of town as a thriving early commercial district.

This building is also important because it marks and retains the western edge of Oriental Alley, a significant part of the historic network of passageways which provided service spaces, stable areas, and secondary access for the city's early commercial businesses. Although its original facades have been significantly altered, it makes a significant physical contribution to the streetscape in its massing, forming a cohesive unit with the other similar buildings on this side of Johnson Street.

H. Saunders Grocery and Liquor Store also holds heritage value as a product of early downtown revitalization and rehabilitation. Together with 557-559 and 547-555 Johnson Street, it forms the 'Paper Box Arcade', an innovative residential/retail heritage rehabilitation development which occurred in the mid 1980s.

Source: City of Victoria Planning and Development Department

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of H. Saunders Grocery and Liquor Store include:
- Its prominent location at the corner of Johnson Street and Oriental Alley.
- The articulation of the east wall facing Oriental Alley, seen in such design elements as windows, doors, stringcourses, and decorative detailing at the cornice.
- Its two-storey massing.
- Its contribution to the Johnson Street streetscape, seen in the cohesion of its design and form with other buildings on this side of the street.
- Surviving original street-front facade elements, including upper-storey fenestration pattern, and the definition of its three-bay configuration.
- Original wood windows.



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

Architect / Designer

Elford and 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