Heritage Register
James Bay

601-03 Superior Street (ex-42 Superior St)

Built 1878
Heritage Resgistered

For: Dennis & Martha Harris

Architect: John Teague*

601 Superior


The archival photograph shows this hip-roofed, two-storey house as having a symmetrical front façade with a full-width verandah, a through-the-roof-dormer bay sitting on the roof of the verandah and a one-storey, hip-roofed, angled bay on the right side of the house.
This much-renovated house has an addition on the front which filled in the verandah and obliterated the through-the-roof dormer. Its first alteration created an open balcony on the upper right, which has since been filled in and capped with an ungainly flat roof. The hip-roofed angled bay on the right side still exists, as do the modillions under the eaves and the denticulated belt course. There is now a one-storey, flat-roofed addition on the rear, right side of the house; there is a likely-original, taller, one-storey hip-roofed extension on the left rear. The house is shingled, and the foundation, which is original, is ashlar, with vertical V-joint T&G along the front.


1878-1939: Dennis Reginald Harris (b. ENG 1851-1932) and Martha (née Douglas, b. Victoria 1854-1933), who married in 1878, were the first owners, but didn’t live here until 1900. Dennis came to Canada in 1869. A civil engineer and surveyor, he worked in eastern Canada, then came west with a team of CPR surveyors and arrived in Victoria in the early 1870s. From 1884-88, Dennis was Victoria city engineer, but continued his private practice. He later joined Leopold Loewenberg as a realtor and insurance agent. From 1885-87, he served on the school board; in 1887-89 and 1893-94 he was a city councillor. He returned to civil engineering c.1900, and for two years surveyed central Vancouver Island for the E&NR to Port Alberni. He conducted surveys for the Malahat Highway, and for the Ogden Point Wharves, James Bay, project.

Martha was the youngest daughter of Gov. Sir James Douglas (1803-1877) and Lady Amelia (née Connolly 1812-1890). She and Dennis lived with Martha’s mother, Amelia, in the Douglas home, James Bay House on Birdcage Walk, now Government St, for over 10 years. This suited both Martha, who was left alone frequently when Dennis was away, and the widowed Amelia. Dennis and Martha retained ownership of this property even after they built Easton Hall in 1890 at 999 Burdett St, Fairfield: that house is gone, but the wall in now designated heritage. The family lived at Easton Hall for about 10 years before finally moving back to 603 Superior St.

Martha was involved with many women’s organizations. She was an accomplished artist, specializing in watercolour and oil painting. She had a keen interest in spinning and weaving, and established several cottage industries in Victoria, reviving this ancient craft by acquiring hand-looms and teaching local women to spin raw wool. Martha was a proud native Victorian and British Columbian; she retained many of her father’s old letters and documents, which now reside with the BC Archives. She was honorary regent of the Sir James and Lady Douglas Chapter of IODE, and an honorary life member of Native Daughters of BC, Post No. 3.

Dennis and Martha celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in 1928. The Harris’s unmarried daughter, Martha Amelia Matilda “Hilda” Harris (b. Victoria 1885-1939), spent most of her life in Victoria and lived in this house until her death. Like her mother, Hilda was a talented spinner and weaver, and accomplished musician. The Harris’s son, James Chichester (b. Victoria 1881-1961), lived in the house in the late 1930s. He married Della Wade Spray (b. Seattle c.1882-1934) in 1918. James had a 50-year military career, achieving the rank of Lieut. Col. with the 5th Regiment, RCA. He retired in 1944.


Tenants: c.1889-91: Henry Croft, of Croft & Angus, proprietors of Chemainus sawmill. 1892-1899: Widow Elizabeth Nelson Fraser (c.1859-1902) operated a dressmaking business from the house, and took in boarders.

Owners: 1940-48: Rena Patenaude (née Chandler, b. Victoria 1889-1980), daughter of John and Lizzie Chandler of 512 Simcoe St, James Bay, operated a rooming house here. Rena married George Patenaude (b. Trois Rivieres, QC 1893-1972) in 1912, newly arrived in Victoria. According to his obituary in the Williams Lake Tribune, George pioneered big game hunting during the 1920s near Horsefly, BC, and later operated the 153 Mile General Store until 1963. Rena and George lived apart: George died in the Cariboo, Rena in Victoria.

1949-84: The BC Government purchased the house, and it was occupied by various departments, including Labour Relations Board, Finance, and Health & Welfare.

1985-: The building was again in private hands.

* from research by Dorothy Mindenhall.


• James Bay History

• James Bay Heritage Register

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

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