Heritage Register

620 St. Charles Street (ex-614 St. Charles St)
Prior House

Built 1911
Heritage-Designated 1997

For: Edward & Genevieve Prior

Architect: William Ridgway Wilson
Contractor: Thomas Ashe

620 St Charles


This 2½-storey, gable-on-hip-roofed Tudor Revival house has wide eaves with multiple modillions. The jerkinheaded dormers on the sides and the gables all have leaded casement windows. The symmetrical garden façade on the left side has a full-width balustraded balcony supported on long, chunky brackets. A recessed angled bay on the upper storey sits between two full-height angled bays. The balcony forms a canopy for the main floor porch, which features Classically-inspired balusters. The porch is accessed by a formal, double-sided stairway with the same baluster design. The porch entrance and the semi-circular garden entrance below the stairway are centrally located. The rear has a box bay with art glass windows to the right of a two-storey extension. On the right side are two tall random stone chimneys, one an exterior wall chimney; there is a third above the garden façade. The main entrance porch is flat-roofed and has two pairs of Tuscan columns with entasis on concrete-capped stone piers. The recessed entry has oak-panelled double doors and matching sidelights. A prominent belt course separates the half-timbered upper storey from the main floor, which is random granite on the front and garden façades, and drop siding on the right side and rear. Most windows are multi-paned-over-one. A hiproofed garage to the right rear of the property is clad in drop siding; its three pairs of double doors have diagonal braces.

The house, which cost $17,000, was completed but not yet occupied when it was destroyed by fire on 23 Feb 1912. VDC 24 Feb 1912 pg.7. The Priors had insured it for $15,000, and immediately rebuilt.

The house was designed in 1911 by noted Victoria architect William Ridgway-Wilson, who was responsible for many historic buildings still existing in downtown Victoria and the neighbourhoods, including: South Park School (508 Douglas St, James Bay), the Bay Street Armoury (713 Bay St, Burnside), and St. John the Divine Anglican Church (1611 Quadra St, North Park).


1911-47: Hon. Edward Gawlor Prior (l853-1920), Premier of BC 1902-03 and Lt.-Gov. 1919-1920, lived in The Priory at 729 Pemberton Rd, Rockland, for many years. Genevieve Boucher Kennedy (née Wright, b. Victoria 1863-1955), the daughter of Thomas and Cornelia Wright, lived in San Francisco and was a widow when she came to visit her sister in Victoria in the 1890s. Here she met Edward, and they married in Vancouver in 1899. They travelled to Europe while the house was being rebuilt after the fire. Genevieve was one of Victoria’s notable political hostesses for many years. She was also actively involved in charitable work, particularly at the Royal Jubilee Hospital. In 1919 they moved to Government House. Genevieve returned here after his death and stayed until 1947; many of her possessions were auctioned in the house, and she moved into the Empress Hotel.

1948-56: Retired Admiral Percy Walker Nelles (b. Brantford, ON 1892-1951) and Helen Schuyler (née Allen, b. Bermuda 1893-1956). Helen came to Canada in 1919. Percy enrolled at 16 in the first class of cadets at the Royal Naval College of Canada. At the outbreak of WWII, Percy was Chief of Naval Staff of the RCN. He was sent overseas as Senior Canadian Naval Officer in 1944. He retired in 1946 and he and Helen moved to Victoria.

1957-65: This was the residence for Norfolk House School for Girls, which had moved into Gonzales, the old Pemberton house across the street, in 1945.


• Map of Victoria's Heritage Register Properties

• Rockland History

• Rockland Heritage Register

• This Old House, Victoria's Heritage Neighbourhoods,
Volume Three: Rockland, Burnside, Harris Green,
Hillside-Quadra, North Park & Oaklands

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