Heritage Register
James Bay

642 Battery Street (ex-41)

Built 1893
Heritage-Designated 1977

For: Charles & Caroline Nairne

Architect: Alexander Maxwell Muir

642 Battery


This architect-designed, 1½-storey, hip-roofed, Queen Anne cottage has two identical, hip-roofed angled bays on the front. All the hips on the house have finials. The house type, including Italianate examples, became popular in Victoria around 1890 (340 Wilson St, Vic West; 15 Menzies St, James Bay; 1444-48 Pembroke St, Fernwood). It has gabled dormers on the front and the right side: the front dormer has double-hung sashes with multi-lights in the round upper sashes; the side dormer has a single, multi-light round window. The wrap-around verandah across the front and down the left side is unusual in that there is a hexagonal projection resembling a gazebo on the corner. The hipped porch roof is separate below the main roof; the porch has square chamfered posts with Queen Anne brackets and plain, square balusters. There is a gabled wing on the left beyond the verandah. The cottage is clad in drop siding, with lattice work around the foundation below the verandah. The original fence design was restored in 1989 with the assistance of a grant from the Victoria Heritage Foundation.

This house was assessed at $400 in 1894, but $1,200 in 1897. It is unknown whether this was due to an addition or the economic upswing after the 1893 depression.


A. Maxwell Muir was commissioned by the Nairnes to design a house for their expanding family; they moved in just before the birth of their second son. They were both born in Scotland, Charles Robert Nairne in Glencreggan in 1851 and Caroline Cruikshank in Perth in 1863. Charles came to BC in 1887, Caroline, the next year. Charles was farming in the Prospect Lake area of Saanich when they married in 1888. From 1891-1914 he worked in the provincial treasury branch, then transferred to the auditor-general’s department. He retired in 1917 and died in 1927. Caroline lived here until her death in 1951. Like the Pottingers at 634 Battery St, they were long-standing members of St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church downtown.

Eldest son Reginald, who was born in Saanich in 1889, lived here as a bachelor until his death in 1977. He was a philatelist with an office at 602 Broughton in the Hamley Building, and was a founding member and president of the Vancouver Island Philatelic Society. Second son Charles Robertson Nairne served during WWI with the British army in East Africa. In 1923 he married Olga Wood, but was single and home again by 1929. An automobile mechanic, by 1946 he was a maintenance mechanic for the BC government. He died at 86 in 1979.

In 1921 third son David married Annie Bartlett, and they lived here until WWII, when they moved to 2748 Prior. David was a mechanic, then service manager for H.A. Davie, then Davis and Empress Motors. From c.1951-61 he was a rep for the Victoria & Island Publicity Bureau. Annie died in 1970 at 77, David in 1971 at 76.The youngest child, Caroline “Carrie” Nairne was born in 1903 and never married. She kept house for her brothers until their deaths, and then lived alone in the home until her death in 1982. Carrie was an artist, renowned for her oil seascapes.


The property was sold to Jim Lee, who had his own heritage house at 223 Robert St, Vic West. His third renters were Mark and Pamela Madoff in 1984; they convinced him to sell in 1986. The Madoffs became heritage activists soon after moving to the neighbourhood, and were leaders in the fight to save Battery St from development and in the Save Our City coalition when the huge Eaton Centre was proposed in 1986. Mark was president of Hallmark Society for two years, but died suddenly at the age of 41 in 1990. Pamela later became Hallmark Society President, then moved into municipal politics. Since 1993 she has been a City Councillor with a special interest in the City’s heritage. Her partner of 20 years, heritage restoration architect Nicholas Bawlf, died at 74 in 2012. In 1986 his firm won the competition to design the Victoria Conference Centre; for that complex Nick won the Lieut-Gov’s Award for Excellence in Architecture. Among other awards, he received one from Heritage Canada, and Heritage BC’s Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2013 he was presented posthumously with a Queen’s Jubilee medal for his contributions to the preservation of the built heritage in BC. Nick’s brother Sam Bawlf was also involved in heritage preservation (1525 Shasta Pl, Rockland).


• James Bay History

• James Bay Heritage Register

• This Old House, Victoria's Heritage Neighbourhoods,
Volume Two: James Bay

House GrantsHeritage HousesResources & PublicationsNews & EventsBuilding CommunityAbout