Heritage Register

1215 Pembroke Street (ex-15 South Rd)

Built 1890
Heritage-Designated 1977

For: Frederick & Sarah Adams

Builders: Frederick S. Adams, likely with sons John, Fred, Ambrose & Albert Adams


This is a 1½-storey brick Second Empire-style house. It has a symmetrical façade and a Mansard roof with five flat-roofed dormers. There are two dormers on the front, one on each side, and one on the rear. They all have two-over-two windows and are shingled, with four courses of scalloped shingles continuous with that of the Mansard. There is a chimney on either side in front of the side dormers. All of the details, including the chimneys and lintels, are parged in a fine-grained grey stucco giving the impression of stone. On the right side there is a square bay and on the front, two angled bays. They flank the brick-arched entry porch with its chamfered posts. All the bays and the porch are flat-roofed. The basement openings at the rear have brick segmental arches.

It was built for $1,500 by Fred Adams and his sons, all of whom were bricklayers and masons except John, a carpenter. It is believed to be one of the earliest houses wired for electricity in Victoria.


Frederick Adams (1842-1895) and Sarah Brown (b. Wheatley, ENG, c.1844-1896) married in England, and their sons were born there as they moved around for Fred’s jobs. They emigrated to Perth, ON, then came to Victoria c.1889. Their sons: John Henry (b. Worksop, Notts, c.1863; see 1449 Pembroke St); Frederick Jr. (b. Framlingham, Suffolk, c.1867-1896); Albert Norton (b. Grimsby, Lincs c.1870); Ambrose (b. Bradford, Yorks, c.1872). In 1892 the sons were all employed by contractor William J. Smith (Smith Hill, Hillside/Quadra), co-founder with John P. Elford (1442 Elford St, Fernwood) of Victoria Brick and Tile Co. In 1893 Fred Adams Sr. won the contract for construction of the BC Parliament Buildings; Fred Jr. and Albert were bricklayers on the project, and John was a draughtsman in his father’s office.

Adams and the architect, Francis Mawson “Frank” Rattenbury, frequently clashed, and other problems arose: “Adams [fired] a stone worker named Durat for breaking a piece of stone in June 1894, an action which resulted in a labour dispute as Adams then deducted the cost of the stone from the discharged worker’s pay. [This precipitated BC’s first official construction labour dispute when the stonecutter crew and masons walked off the job. It was settled by the first piece of labour legislation to be enacted in the province.] Adams struck the Clerk of Works for the new buildings, E.C. Howell, when he visited Haddington Island in March of 1895....Adams was charged, convicted of assault, and fined $25. On Friday, March 22, 1895, after having made out his last will and testament, Adams sailed on the Velos for Haddington Island. Encountering a storm off Trial Island that evening, the vessel went down with the loss of five lives including Adams. Adam’s body was never found [so no death certificate was issued]. Adam’s will left everything to his wife and, under the terms of the contract for...the new Parliament Buildings, his wife became responsible [for completing] the project. His eldest son John Henry...took over the family business but the contract was completed by friends of Adams, McGregor, Jeeves and Baker, who entered into an agreement with Sarah Adams in April of 1895.”*

*Quote from Ken Johnson

In 1896 Sarah and Fred Jr. drowned in the Point Ellice bridge disaster. Their funeral was held from their home, with that of Annie Heatherbell (1417 Pembroke St). The two Adams and Annie are buried together in Ross Bay Cemetery; the memorial includes Fred Sr. John, Arthur and Ambrose left Victoria with their families in 1897, John to Ontario, Albert to California and Ambrose to South Africa, then Detroit.


1898: Civil engineer Arthur and Mina Yarwood Wheeler married here in 1896. Arthur was a journalist, piano music dealer, printer, and in 1908 the superintendent of Monarch Mine at Field, BC. Their son Arthur “Lloyd” Shotter Wheeler was born while they lived in this house. Mina was a school teacher and later the principal of Fisgard School; their daughter Helena Mina “Nellie” remained single and was a teacher all her life. When Lloyd signed up for WWI in 1916 they lived at 1609 Richmond Av. [Note: Arthur’s parents Capt. Arthur and Harriet Wheeler lived at 1605 Richmond. Arthur’s brother Herbert lived with Arthur and Mina at 1215 Pembroke in 1898 and at 1605 Richmond in 1965. Herbert Wheeler was president of White Pass & Yukon Rwy Co when he retired in 1945.]

Owners: 1900-45: William Morry (b. Nfld, c.1850-1910) and Anna Jennings (née Windsor, c.1853-1903) and their offspring lived here on and off. He was a foreman for Inverness Cannery, then a net boss on the Skeena River. In 1901 their school-age daughters Elsie Leone and Anna Victoria were living with their mother’s brother Jacob Windsor, a farmer on Cedar Hill Rd, while she and William were in Inverness. William died there and his remains were returned to Victoria on the SS Venture. The Morry family then rented the house out, although in 1912 Elsie Morry, a steno with W.A. Jameson Coffee Co, lived here. In 1913 she married Capt. James Ewing Noel, a master mariner from Newfoundland. Her sister Muriel married Capt. John Morley Newcombe, a master mariner from New Brunswick, in 1908. Anna married printer George Herbert Pottinger, the son of James and Clara Pottinger (634 Battery St, James Bay) in 1910. Another daughter, telephone operator Isabelle Windsor, married wharfinger Bruce Edward Sterling in 1914. He was an E&N brakeman, then conductor when they lived in the house in 1921.

Tenants: 1900-02: Victoria Daily Times editor Robert Broadfoot and Mary Isabel Dunn (102 South Turner St, James Bay; 437 Stannard St, Fairfield). Robert later wrote the Note and Comment column under his initials R.B.D. for the Daily Colonist from WWI until a few months before his death in 1938.

1914-20: Painter and decorator Harold “Thomas” Rendell (b. Victoria, 1885-1960) never married. He served with the 22nd Battalion CEF during WWI.
1923: Bertram Garrow and May Cooper; Bertram was an agent for Colliers, and later an accountant for Collins & Collins.
1925-29: Annie Trotter (née Duke, b. London, ON, 1884-1969), widow of CPR employee John Trotter. They married at Albert Head near Victoria in 1906, where Annie’s parents Thomas and Ann Duke had farmed since c.1890. Annie’s son, Victoria Normal School student Charles, lived with her.

Tenants, then Owners: 1929-2012: Annie Underwood (née Comber, b. Surrey, ENG, 1890-1982), widow of Peter, and her family. Annie bought the property in 1944-45. [Annie’s son A.B. John Comber Underwood, RCN, (b. Stettler, AB, 1920-1940) was lost with the destroyer HMCS Margaree when it collided with the merchantman Port Fairy on October 22nd, 1940 during WWII. They were in a convoy of five ships coming to Canada from Britain, and in a blinding squall they crossed paths. The Port Fairy cut the Margaree in half at the bridge: no one on the bridge or in the front of the ship was saved. Cmdr. Joseph Wilton Rouer Roy, RCN, also from Victoria, and 140 seamen died.]

Annie’s son Peter James Underwood (b. Medicine Hat 1926-2012), his wife Dorothy and family owned the house until about 2019. In 1960 a 100+ year-old cabin at the back of the property was demolished. It was believed to have been used by farm workers tending cows which provided dairy products for Fort Victoria.


• Fernwood History

• Fernwood Heritage Register

• This Old House, Victoria's Heritage Neighbourhoods,
Volume One: Fernwood & Victoria West

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