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Heritage Register
James Bay

649 Superior Street (ex-4 Superior St)

Built 1897
Heritage-Registered

For: Robert & Flora Porter

649 Superior

ARCHITECTURE:

This modest Arts & Crafts cottage has a balanced façade featuring a pair of box bays on either side of an open porch with chamfered and bracketed trim above a solid balustrade. Drop siding is used for exterior finish, and the fairly plain trim is set off by a graceful bellcast roof. The front gable is half-timbered with cedar shingle between. The roof has turned finials. Both sides have hip-roofed extensions adding to the balanced composition. The house has recently had extensive foundation work and the chimney is rebuilt. A pair of old walnut trees in front are outstanding and lilacs survive but an elaborate cast metal fence replaces the period picket fence. A period garage has a glazed replacement door.

This was one of Samuel Maclure’s earliest works in Victoria. Improvements on this property can be traced back to J.S. Helmcken (638 Elliot St, James Bay) in 1889 for $300, but the present house was built in 1897. In 1898 Robert John Porter started paying taxes on the property, for $2400 in improvements.

ORIGINAL OCCUPANTS:

Robert’s parents Robert John Sr. and Alice came to Victoria in 1852 and 1865 respectively. Robert was born on the family’s cattle farm, later known as Woodwyn Farm, in Saanich in 1867. The family then moved to Burnside Rd, and Robert and his siblings attended Craigflower School. His father established a meat market in Victoria in 1871; it became known as Robert Porter & Sons when the sons were admitted into the partnership in 1886. The business had contracts to supply meat to many organizations, including the army, government and schools. In 1898 Robert married Flora Beaton, and they moved in to this house. Flora was born in Lachute, QC, in 1876. She came to BC in 1888 and to Victoria 10 years later.

Robert followed in his father’s footsteps, and learned the family butcher business. In 1909 Robert Porter & Sons was sold to Patrick Burns of Calgary, and the ranch was leased to dairy farmers E. and T. Raper until 1950, when the Porter family sold the farm. Robert turned to municipal politics, but his continuing interest in agriculture was evident in his many years of service as a director and later president of the BC Agricultural Association. By 1912 he was a Victoria city alderman. As mayor of Victoria during post-war times from 1919-21, Robert worked to overcome many of the City’s financial difficulties. He was part of a delegation to Ottawa which fought to keep wooden-ship building contracts on the West Coast. He was influential in the construction of the Sooke Waterworks for the City, and during his last year as mayor, work on the Johnson St Bridge finally began, after years of planning and delays. Robert died unexpectedly of pneumonia in 1922 at 55. Soon after, a park was created in his name near Sir James Douglas School. Flora died in 1961 at 85.

Six Porter children, Gertrude “Trudy”, Florence Beatrice, Robert Beaton, Iona, Kathleen, and Margaret Jean grew up in this house and several continued living here. Margaret, educated at McGill University, worked for the Victoria Public Library from 1930-52. She became head of Circulation, but died of cancer in 1953 at 42. Kathleen, a dental nurse, married Daniel Prentice in 1930. She died in 1956 at 57. Florence married Andrew Alexander in 1933 and moved to Fairfield Rd. Robert was a pressman with the Daily Colonist and was living here in 1951. He married Dorothy Ellen Jeeves and lived on Fairfield Rd at the time of his death in 1980 at 79.

Gertrude remained single and became a teacher. She taught in Sooke and BC’s interior before retiring and returning to this house. Iona worked in the family business from a young age, first as a stenographer in the 1920s-30s. She became a trustee and then secretary of the financial corporation of Robert Porter & Son until her retirement. Gertrude and Iona lived in this house until the mid-1990s.

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


 © VICTORIA HERITAGE FOUNDATION (VHF) 2013 Phone 250-383-4546  Email:vhf@victoriaheritagefoundation.ca
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