Heritage Register
James Bay

527 Michigan Street
The Redstone

Built 1918
Heritage-Designated 1993/Commercial, Apartment

For: Emma & David Spencer

Architect: Percy Fox

527 Michigan


This one-storey, red-brick block on a corner site is an industrial building which in 2007-08 was rehabilitated into condominiums. The Michigan St façade has three bays separated by pilasters; the two-storey bay on the far right has three multi-light windows above two windows and a door. The middle portion was once a large entrance door for the trucks; the upper portion is now bricked in with two windows below. The bay to the left has two windows and a door. The left façade on Parry St consists of eight bays separated by pilasters, seven of which originally had three windows. In four of the bays, one of the windows has been converted into a doorway with an awning. The penultimate bay has a garage door. A second floor has been added onto the roof but recessed from Michigan and Parry Sts. The original roof on Parry St in front of the addition is now a roof garden. The alley façade parallel to Parry St has three cutouts in the original brick wall creating courtyards for the condos. The segmentally arched windows are all 6-over-6 double-hung sashes.


Store owner David Spencer built the first stables for his delivery horses here in 1897, and in 1907 architects Hooper and Watkins drew up plumbing and drainage plans for the stables. In 1918 the present brick garage for motorized delivery vans was built.

David Spencer Ltd was the largest department store in early Victoria and Western Canada. David arrived in Victoria from Wales in 1863 (1040 Moss St, Rockland), married Emma Lazenby, one of the “bride-ship” women, in 1867, and they lived for many years at the SE corner of Government and Belleville Sts, where BC Archives is now located. In 1864 David purchased a book and stationary business, sold it to Hibben & Carswell, and went into partnership with William Denny in 1873, buying Victoria House, a dry goods store, on the corner of Fort and Douglas Sts. Five years later, the partnership was dissolved and David Spencer Ltd established.

In 1882, David purchased an “L-shaped” lot fronting Government and Broad Sts, and built the Arcade Block between Fort St and Trounce Alley. Spencer’s business was successful and he bought more property for a 4-storey building designed by Thomas Hooper. This was destroyed in 1910 when the “Five-Sisters’ Block fire” swept through Government and Broad Sts. Spencer bought the Driard Hotel, damaged in the fire, and Victoria Theatre and converted them to a department store in three weeks. The Arcade Block was eventually rebuilt, and served as the annex. David operated the business until his death in 1920, by which time the business had expanded to Vancouver. Son Christopher then managed the Vancouver store, son William (1045 Joan Cr, Rockland) the Victoria one. After William died in 1946, his sister Sara took over the Victoria store. She died in 1983. In 1948, Timothy Eaton purchased the Spencer business, but it took time for Victorians to warm up to his puritan tendencies: he removed the tobacco counter and covered window displays on Sundays.


The garage block was acquired by the BC Government in the late 1940s, and used as offices. In 2007-08 developers Cielo Properties and Tinney & Associates rehabilitated the exterior and created condominiums in the interior of the structure. They won a Hallmark Society Award in 2009 for their adaptive re-use of the building.


• James Bay History

• James Bay Heritage Register

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

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