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Heritage Register
James Bay

588 Michigan Street
(ex-68, later 539 Superior St,
relocated to 588 Michigan St in 2016)


Built 1889 or 1891-92?; 1907; 2016
Heritage Designated 2016

For: Estate of George M. Wysham or Richrd & Kate John?; John Smith

Builder: Michael C. Powers or Richard John?

539 Superior

ARCHITECTURE:

This one-storey, front-gabled Queen Anne Cottage has a hip-roofed extension on the left side, a pediment-gabled, bracketed, angled bay on the right side, and a lower gabled extension on the rear. The front has a wide pedimented gable above a bracketed, angled bay, with a small, projecting, pediment-gabled corner porch to its right. The bay has leaded art glass transom windows. The porch has chamfered posts, a pilaster, and a solid balustrade. The original wood-panelled front door has a glazed inset and a transom. The rear gables both have returns on the gable ends. To the lower rear extension are attached a hip-roofed, enclosed porch on the side and a small, pediment-gabled, enclosed porch on the rear. There are finials on the front and rear of the main gabled roof. All the gables have fishscale shingles and pent roofs. The body of the house and the balustrades are clad in double-bevelled siding. All chimneys have been removed. This house was originally hip-roofed, as seen in the 1910 photo on the front inside cover, and was altered shortly afterwards; the alterations included changing all but one of the hips to gables, and the addition of the bay on the right side of the house. The photo suggests the front bay has been heavily rebuilt. John Smith was listed in the 1907 VDC as having made additions to his house worth $1,000.

ORIGINAL OCCUPANTS:

Owners: 1874-89: Assessment values for a building on this property go back to 1874 in the amount of $1,000 for the Estate of George M. Wysham. [Note: Wysham was an African-American immigrant from the USA. The VDC stated that Frances Wysham was divorced from George W. Wysham in San Francisco on 4 August 1865, cause, desertion. George was a teamster residing in James Bay when he died in June 1868 at the age of 46. His funeral was held from the Vancouver St home of his friend Peter Lester, a prominent member of the local black community.] The assessment for improvements on this property dropped considerably to $400 in 1889, when a much smaller building probably replaced the original. The reason for the replacement is unknown.

OTHER OCCUPANTS:

Owner: 1890: J. McDuffin.
Tenant: 1889-90: Michael C. Powers, a carpenter with Smith & Clark, contractors; it is very possible that the earliest part of this house was built at that time by Powers.

Owners: 1891-92: Richard John (b. Pennsylvania, USA, 1861-1924) and Kate “Katie” (née John, b. Saanich 1869-1908). Both of their families were Welsh. Richard’s parents Richard and Ann John established a farm in North Saanich on Vancouver Island in 1872. Kate’s parents Edwin and Matilda John, also Saanich farmers, came in 1864. Richard and Kate married in 1886, and moved to the city several years later. Richard took up carpentry and was working as a furniture hand for Weiler Bros by 1892. Kate died in Benicia, CA, Richard in Victoria.

Owners: 1893-1922: John Smith (b. London, ENG 1851-1915) and Florence Annie Elizabeth (b. ENG 1850-1922) emigrated from England to Victoria in 1882. John worked as foreman, bookkeeper and clerk for Christopher Morley’s Soda Water Factory until his retirement in 1905. He was a “witty and entertaining impromtu speaker...at banquets and public functions” and a member of the AOUW. After John’s death, Florence became a recluse and rarely left the house.

Tenants: 1899-1908: Veteran gardener and florist James Moss (b. Ashton-under-Lyme, ENG 1841-1913) and his wife Alice (née Broadbent, b. ENG 1838-1926) sailed to Victoria from England in 1862 on the Silistra. James established the first nursery in Victoria at the Willows in Oak Bay, eventually moving it to James Bay, for some years on this property. He planned gardens for many well-known Victorians, including Sir James and Lady Amelia Douglas.

Owners: 1923-28: Richard Harland, a clerk and then department manager at Spencer’s, and his wife Edith (née Morris, b. Griffield, ENG 1873-1954) came to Canada c.1914 and to BC c.1920.

1929-31: Andrew Louis Fraser (b. Halewood, Lancs, ENG c.1878-1963) and Jacqueline Maude Elizabeth (née Devereux, b. Wiltshire, ENG c.1888-1968) married in Vancouver in 1922. Jacqueline came to Canada in 1907, and was working as a stenographer at the time of their marriage. The Frasers both came to BC in 1918, and to Victoria shortly after their marriage. He was a surveyor for 42 years until retiring in 1942.

Owner: 1931-2014: The BC Government purchased the property from the Frasers.
Users: 1931-32: BC Government High School Correspondence Examiners.
1933-34: Artist George Henry Southwell (b. Bilbao, SP 1865-1961) used it as his studio and lived at 1424 Douglas St. George studied at the Kensington Art School and the Slade in London, ENG. He did murals for the 1888 Paris and 1908 Brussels Expositions depicting British industries. He immigrated to Canada and arrived in Vancouver in 1910. He then spent some years sketching and painting the BC interior as well as doing murals and illustrating books. He was then employed by the BC Government Publicity Bureau as Provincial Artist, and spent years travelling the province painting 200 works of BC life and scenery. These works were sent throughout the world to publicize BC. In 1932 he was commissioned to paint the murals in the dome of the BC Parliament Building (501 Belleville St, James Bay). George died in Garden Bay, BC.
Users: 1935: BC Government Civil Service Commission and BC Government Civil Service Sports Club Tennis Court; rear: BC Museum Annex.
1936-47: Same plus Canadian Legion Public Service Branch. 1948-55: BC Government Purchasing Commission (Typewriter Service); rear: BC Museum Annex.

Owners: 2014-16: The five houses still remaining on what is now called Capital Park, a major part of the block south of the Legislative Building, were sold by the provincial government to Jawl Precinct Lands Corp & South Block (Concert) Ltd for redevelopment. They moved the houses off the property, the three on Superior to 580, 584 and 588 Michigan St, and the two on Michigan to 222 and 226 Dallas Rd. They are redeveloping much of the block except for the three houses they moved to the east end of Michigan St, the Robson and Hunter houses around the corner at 506 and 514 Government St, and 563 Superior St, all of which are on the City’s Heritage Register. The company restored the three Michigan St houses, and in 2017 won a Hallmark Heritage Society Award of Merit for their superb work.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION & IMAGES:


• James Bay History

• James Bay Heritage Register

• Hallmark Heritage Society Archives

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


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