The current name for this building reflects its 21st century use, but the original name of the building is pretty close. The Victoria Block was built in 1908 as shops, offices and residential use designed by W F Gardiner for the British Columbia Permanent Loan and Savings Company. It was Gardiner’s first major commission in the city, and the style reflects his English architectural training. BC Permanent had also built the tiny gem of a bank building next door a year earlier.
Although the residential use is noted in the Heritage Designation for the building, you wouldn’t know it from the Street Directories for 1910 which show the upper (and basement) floors filled with real estate brokers, a timber company, the US Immigration department and the School Board Supervisors. Although the tenancies have almost all changed, all the tenants in 1918 are also companies (and also mostly brokers and real estate agents).
The reason is that the third – residential – floor was linked to the Victoria Rooms round the corner on Homer, although they had their own staircase entry. Under the headline “Big Building on Pender Street” the Feb 8th Daily World had the following story “National Finance Co., Ltd., to Erect Three-storey Store, Office and Apartment Block at Corner of Homer and Pender Streets. A notice has been posted on the vacant lot on the southeast corner of Homer and Pender streets to the effect that a three-storey brick block will be erected on that site in the immediate future, those financing the project being the National Finance Co, Ltd., of 412 Hastings street. The new block will extent from the corner to the new B.C. Permanent Loan & Savings company’s structure on Pender street, almost adjoining the Lyric theatre, and the tenants of the small row of stores adjoining the B. C. Permanent’s new building have been given until Feb. 29 to vacate. The proposed structure will consist of stores on the ground floor, offices on the first floor and apartment rooms on the second floor.”
A more detailed story in the March 14th Daily World gave greater detail. “The front elevation of the new block to be erected on the southeast corner of Homer and Pender streets for the British Columbia Permanent Loan & Savings company, and for which excavation work has begun, was selected from competitive plans received by the promoters from various local architects. The accepted plans were drawn by William F. Gardiner, Hastings street. The above elevation will face on Pender street. This building will cost at least $20,000 and will be somewhat unique in its structure. The ground floor will be laid out in commodious stores, the second floor in offices and the third storey will be composed of sleeping apartments directly connected with the Victoria house that will adjoin the building on Homer street.
The contract was yesterday let to Atkinson & Dill, formerly of Regina, who erected several large buildings in Saskatchewan’s capital, including the big Canada Permanent building, the King’s hotel, etc. Work will be commenced at once.
The building will have a frontage on Pender street of 104 feet and a sixty foot frontage on Homer street. Naturally, it will be well lighted and properly ventilated. In the latter connection shafts will run from each corridor to the roof, so as to remove any foul air that might congregate in the building. The structure will be well fitted as regards sanitary arrangements and proper fire escapes will prevent the building from becoming a fire trap.
For many years the building looked increasingly sad, but a recent comprehensive restoration has seen it return to looking as good as it must have over a century ago. One of the delights of this restoration is the pediment and balcony balustrade metal work. Many buildings in the city featured galvanized tin architectural decoration; it was cheaper and more versatile than stone. Much of it could be ordered from catalogues as well from local metal shops. Our 1978 image shows that the building had lost its central balcony many years ago, and that Macleods Books once occupied the corner retail unit.