So I sent off an email on Friday asking the city of Victoria if they could help me find out some of the history of my new building. Monday, the answers arrived. This is part of the “Statement of Significance” about the building. note both of the pictures are before the facade restoration of a few years ago and it again looks more like the top photo not the later
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The historic place is a two-storey plus basement brick commercial buildings concealed by a post-modern stucco façade, and addition to rear occupying almost an entire lot in Victoria’s Old Town, a vibrant historic commercial district at the heart of the provincial capital.
The historic place is valued for its association with the origins of Victoria’s automobile industry, and for its history of use that reflects wider trends of use in this part of Victoria’s Old Town.
Constructed for the Plimley Auto Company in 1910 to the designs of accomplished and prolific Victorian architect William Ridgeway Wilson, the building at 1408-1410 Broad Street served as showrooms and a repair shop for one of Victoria’s first automobile businesses. Thomas Plimley, a former bicycle dealer, who in 1901 sold the first car in the city, and R.P. Clarke who had bought Plimley’s business the year before and subsequently entered into partnership with him, formed the Plimley Autos, a company that is remembered city-wide, where by the time of its closure in 1998 it had established many car dealerships and garages.
The original use of the historic place reflects the evolution of the automobile as a vehicle of leisure for the monied classes in Victoria and its popularity as a means of transport is echoed in the subsequent use of neighbouring buildings for garages, auto supplies, and showrooms. Plimley and Clarke’s choice of this block almost certainly refers to its growth during the late nineteenth century as a centre for bicycle and carriage sales and repair, and to their first-had knowledge of that industry.
The 1910 leasing of the upper floor by a printer and sign-writer speaks to another activity focused on Broad Street – journalism and printing. Victoria’s main newspapers, the Colonist, the Times and the Daily News all had offices nearby. And the purchase and alteration of the buildings by the Columbia Paper Company in the 1930s strengthened that association.
Subsequent use of the building reflects social trends in the Downtown core: its conversion to premises for the Victoria Social Club reminds us of the transition, in the Pacific north-west, of the senior citizen from perceived nuisance to respected elder; the creation of residential suites speaks to the need for low-cost housing and soaring inflation; and the Government’s Downtown Outreach Service, catering to the severely mentally ill, to the reaction to care in the community policies for mental illness, and the terrible consequences caused by cheap street drugs and continuing homelessness in the city.
The character-defining elements of 1408-1410 Broad Street include:
Location on the 1400 block of Broad Street
Proximity to a number of surviving former carriageworks, car showrooms, and repair garages
Cambered and flat brick-arched window openings and double-hung wood window joiner in the front, rear and north elevations
The fair-faced brick rear and north walls except for the light-reflecting whitewashed panels on the north wall that refer to the window positions of the former Kingdom of Jehovah’s Witnesses Hall on the lot to the north
The stepped parapet of the north wall
The automobile repair pits
The flat-roofed kitchen addition to the rear including its tiled floor
The floor surfaces, scarring and textures in the basement that indicate the former arrangements of the garage
The remains of the ‘area’ beneath the pavement on Broad Street
The reveals of the vehicle opening in the rear elevation within the former restaurant kitchen (now Chain Chain Chain) and certain internal partitions that indicate the position of the former road through the building
The scars and iron fixtures behind the modern stucco that indicate the position of the Italianate scrolls, pressed-metal cornice and string courses that adorned the street façade
The scars and fixtures behind the modern stucco that indicate the former arrangements of the gallery clerestory glazing, the lower cornice and the awning position.