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Rithet Building

1107-1125 Wharf Street, Victoria, British Columbia, V8W, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1975/03/13

Exterior view of the Rithet Building, Wharf Street elevation, February 2006; City of Victoria, Berdine J. Jonker, 2006
West elevation
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Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1861/01/01 to 1863/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2006/10/23

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Rithet Building is a three-storey brick commercial building located on the east side of Wharf Street, facing the Inner Harbour. Its most notable features include decorative cast iron columns at street level, and pedimented window hoods on the second storey.

Heritage Value

Built in four stages between 1861 and 1889, the Rithet Building embodies the early evolution of the city, and illustrates how new technology supported the growth of Victoria from fur-trading post to thriving commercial centre. The use of cast-iron columns made in San Francisco on the earliest portion of this building is an important part of its history, reflecting burgeoning trade links with the United States along the west coast of North America. It also set the tone for subsequent phases of the building's construction, and connected the building with its most prominent owner, R.P. Rithet. Rithet was part owner of the Albion Iron Works, which provided cast-iron columns for the newest sections of the building. This successful local entrepreneur, who eventually went on to serve as Mayor of Victoria and local MLA, purchased the building in 1888 and his mercantile and insurance company occupied it until 1948.

The Rithet Building is valued as an integral part one of the finest early commercial streetscapes in Victoria, which contributes significantly to the history and heritage of the Inner Harbour Precinct. Constructed during Victoria's boom years of the late nineteenth century, this building preserves the architectural continuity of the street frontage, which speaks to the importance and grandeur of trade and shipping via the Inner Harbour in the late nineteenth century. Access to the rear of this building via Helmcken Alley is also important, as it retains the network of Klondike-era courtyards and alleyways which is a trademark of Victoria's historic infrastructure.

The iconographic symbolism on this building is also an important part of its heritage value. The caduceus, the astrological symbol of commerce, is found above the capital of each cast-iron column on the street front facades of this building and its neighbour to the north. This iconography is emblematic of the belief in the power of successful business to spur Victoria's growth even in its earliest days.

Source: City of Victoria Planning and Development Department

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of the Rithet Building include:
- The open views between this building and the Inner Harbour.
- Its physical relationships to Wharf Street, the Inner Harbour waterway, and to Helmcken Alley at rear.
- Its three storey height and harmonious style with the rest of the historic buildings on this side of Wharf Street.
- The architectural vocabulary of this type of commercial building, including cast-iron facade elements, such as street front columns, made by both P. Donahue Union Iron Works of San Francisco and Albion Iron Works of Victoria, sparse upper-storey decoration, and doors and windows original to the building.
- The caduceus symbol located above each cast iron column on the storefront.



British Columbia

Recognition Authority

Local Governments (BC)

Recognition Statute

Local Government Act, s.967

Recognition Type

Heritage Designation

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1889/01/01 to 1889/01/01
1885/01/01 to 1885/01/01
1865/01/01 to 1865/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Trade and Commerce

Function - Category and Type


Office or office building
Commerce / Commercial Services
Shop or Wholesale Establishment


Commerce / Commercial Services
Office or Office Building
Commerce / Commercial Services

Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

City of Victoria Planning and Development Department

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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