Heritage Register

637 Bay Street
Bay Street Sub-Station

Built: 1928; 1974-76

For: British Columbia Electric Power & Gas Company

Architects: Theodor Frederick Körner (1928);
Ojar Kalns (1974)
Contractors: Parfitt Brothers (1928);

George Henry Wheaton (1974)

637 Bay


The Bay Street Sub-Station is a large, flat-roofed, reinforced concrete structure in the Art Deco style with Egyptian Revival motifs. It is located on a prominent sloped corner lot at the intersection of Bay and Government Sts, on the northern outskirts of Victoria’s central core. It is distinguished by a smooth exterior finish, geometric detailing, battered upper walls, cavetto cornices, stylized pilaster capitals, stylized company crests and a banded base. The regular fenestration includes massive, recessed window openings on all four elevations, deeply recessed foundation windows and slit windows. The landscaping includes banked ground planes, unpainted board-formed concrete retaining walls and concrete steps at the NW corner.

This is Victoria’s earliest and most striking example of Art Deco architecture, and was one of the first Art Deco structures in the province. The Egyptian-inspired detailing is a rarity in BC and recalls the interest generated with the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb six years earlier. This is a significant example of the work of Theodor Frederick Körner (1885-1946), who designed this structure while employed by the Construction Department of BC Electric. Körner was also responsible for other large-scale projects such as BC Electric’s concrete power plant at Ruskin (1930).


The Bay St Sub-Station is valued for the key role it served in the B.C. Electric Company’s infrastructure. Formed in 1897, B.C. Electric was a driving force in the economy of the city and province through both the provision of power and the operation of transit systems, and remains in business today as B.C. Hydro. After its construction in 1928, this sub-station was the control centre for power distribution for the southern end of Vancouver Island, and was also the origin of the power lines that serviced the city’s streetcar system, and later the electric bus system. Its once remote location on the outskirts of the downtown core was due to its industrial function and the significant humming noise that emanated from the sub-station’s machinery.


The Sub-Station is an early and rare example of the preservation of Victoria’s industrial heritage. Developer Jim Mace recognized the potential for adaptive reuse and purchased the vacant building in 1966. The rehabilitation work was finally carried out in 1974-76, and the cavernous interior was infilled with three stories of office space. The exterior was largely preserved, although the grey concrete was covered with cream paint. The renovations were designed by Ojar Kalns Architects of Vancouver.

The building has since been occupied by BC government departments. The West Coast College of Massage Therapy and the Victoria Immigrant & Refugee Centre Society are now tenants.


• Statement of Significance (Canadian Register of Historic Places)

• Map of Victoria Heritage Register Properties

• Burnside History

• Burnside Heritage Register

• This Old House, Victoria's Heritage Neighbourhoods,
Volume Three: Rockland, Burnside, Harris Green,
Hillside-Quadra, North Park & Oaklands

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