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Heritage Register
James Bay

309 Belleville Street (ex-92 Belleville St)

Built 1895-6
Heritage Covenant

For: Amelia J. & William J. Pendray

Architect: Alexander Charles Ewart

309 Belleville

ARCHITECTURE:

What is now known as Gatsby Mansion is a 2½-storey, hip-roofed Queen Anne house with an octagonal tower on the left front corner and a curved one-storey bay window with a small porch above on the right. There is a pedimented gable with a jettied second floor over a curved ground-floor bay window on the left side, and a hip-roofed two-storey wing at the rear. There are modillions under the closed eaves, pedimented dormers with brackets and a moulded leaf design on the front and left sides, and two shed dormers on the right side. The first floor has clapboard cladding with corner boards, and the second, square shingles in a complex pattern, with a pent roof covered with fish scale shingles in between. There are second-floor recessed porches with basket-handle arched openings on front and left side. An entry porch with turned supports and brackets wraps around from mid-left side to mid-front, with pedimented entry gables at each end; the left side has been glassed in. The interior features period frescoes by German artisans Muller & Sturn and fine wood finishing.

ORIGINAL OCCUPANTS:

William Joseph Pendray, born in Cornwall, England in 1846, came to America when he was about 20. After searching for gold in California, he followed the trail to the Cariboo gold rush. He staked claims on Mosquito Creek and acquired a fortune in the Willow and Minnehaha Mines. He went back to Cornwall and invested in tin shares, and met Amelia Jane Carthew, born 1849. However, he also invested in South African gold mines and lost his money, so returned to BC to pursue opportunities in a developing territory. In Victoria in 1875 he acquired a bankrupt soap manufacturing business on Humboldt St with his uncle W.J. Jeffree, a prominent clothier. Amelia emigrated to Victoria in 1877: she sailed from Liverpool to New York, took the train overland to San Francisco, then a sailing vessel which took five days to reach Esquimalt Harbour. She was married the day after she arrived in the Jeffrees’ Fort St home. In January 1880, Robert McMicking connected the first telephone line in Victoria from Jeffree’s clothing store to Pendray’s soap factory, a distance of one-third mile.

The White Swan soap business prospered and in 1899 William bought theBC franchise of the Canada Paint Co, which had sold ready-mixed paint since 1893. About 1906 he sold the Humboldt land to the CPR, who built the Empress Hotel on the mud flats. The Pendrays moved to a new factory constructed by Moore & Whittington (1437 Vining St, Fernwood) on Laurel Point, close to their home. By 1913, when they sold the soap business to Lever Bros, their firm, British America Paint Co (Bapco), had 150 employees and did over $1,000,000 in business annually. Bapco paints, stains and varnishes were famous across western Canada until the 1970s, and for some years it was the largest paint manufacturer east of Toronto and north of San Francisco. William was killed instantly at the paint works as he was making his rounds one morning in 1913. A concrete-covered lead pipe fell from above and crushed his skull. He was 68.

The Pendrays had four sons, all of whom became involved in the businesses. Eldest son Ernest died at 31 in 1908 when thrown from a buggy when his horse bolted on the street outside their home.

Second son, John Carl Pendray, became managing director and continued in that capacity until his retirement in 1948. Carl was mayor of Victoria from 1925-28, and the founder and guiding spirit of Victoria & Island Publicity Bureau. He was a tireless worker for Victoria: he copyrighted the slogan used for decades by Victoria Tourism, “Follow the Birds to Victoria;” and he and associates established the first car-ferry business to Victoria in 1922. He bought Esquimalt waterworks for the City, paving the way for the present Greater Victoria water district. He was instrumental in the development of the Ogden Point grain elevator and cold storage plant. Carl was one of the original directors of the Canadian Highway Association, and got the road built to the top of Mt. Douglas in Saanich. In 1927-28 he was vice-president of the National Paint, Varnish and Lacquer Association of North America. He was a charter member of Victoria Rotary Club and a Mason, active in the Red Cross, Community Chest and wartime bond drives, and a member of Union, Uplands and Victoria Golf Clubs. Carl Pendray died in 1961 at 81. Bapco was headed by his son Allan Pendray until 1965, when the business was sold to Canadian Industries Ltd (CIL). Carl’s brothers Herbert (1883-1956) and Roy (1890-1932) also worked for Bapco, Herbert as Vice-President and Roy as Prairie Manager headquartered in Calgary.

Amelia Pendray was honorary president of Bapco until her death in 1937 at 87. Always active, she went on an around-the-world trip a few years before her death. As well as their companies, the Pendrays were well-known for the ornate topiary garden in front of their Belleville home, and for their staunch support of Metropolitan Methodist, then United Church.

OTHER OCCUPANTS:


About 1939 the house was bought by the Sisters Notre Dame des Anges, a Roman Catholic Missionary Sisterhood from China, who opened it in March 1940 as a women’s hostel called Loretto Hall. They also actively pursued converts among the local Chinese community.

In 1970, Florence and Bill Prior bought the house and opened it as an inn and restaurant called the Captain’s Palace. It is now The Gatsby Mansion, part of the Huntington Hotel’s Belleville Park Resort.


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