Heritage Register

906 St. Charles Street (ex-900? St. Charles)

Built 1920; 1944-45

For: Harry & Margeret Bullen

Architect: Percy Leonard James (1920)
Contractors: Peter McKechnie (1920);
Edward J. Hunter (1944-45)

906 St Charles


This impressive 2½ storey, stuccoed house has many Classical design elements. It has a complex multi-hipped roofline with multiple chunky modillions in the eaves; the edges of the steep roof are slightly curved as they meet the gutters. There are flat-roofed dormers all around the house, only two of which are original. The entrance façade on the right has a tall, central, hipped extension with a second-storey Palladian window over the porte-cochère; the entry porch is under the porte-cochère. Two large wings flank the central extension. To the right of the portecochère, the small angled entry porch, now enclosed, has a roundel above.

The garden façade on the left has a centrally-located Palladian dormer and hip-roofed entry. To the right is a single-storey, wide, angled bay with a balcony above. In the corner to the right of this is a balcony over the conservatory. All the balustrades on the house are stuccoed, as are the two tall, wide chimneys, which were originally brick.

The house has been sensitively converted to three strata-titled units. The only obvious clues are the clerestory addition to the roof, a heavy rear stairway, and the extra dormers which have been added to increase living space.


1920-28: Wealthy shipbuilder Harry Frederick Bullen (1868-1924) (1007 Joan Cr, Rockland, 908 St. Charles St) paid $14,000 for this eight-bedroom house. His widow Margaret moved to Europe, where she died in 1934.


Tenants: 1929-30: Capt. William Hobart Molson, proprietor of Molson’s Bank for eight years, retired in 1922. He came to Victoria from Montreal in 1926 with his first wife, New York-born Catherine Deslesderniers (née Shepherd), who immigrated to Canada in 1920 and died in 1926 aged 35. In 1930 Molson hired P.L. James to design a house at 1663 Rockland (extant). William married Margaret Bruce “Madge” MacKenzie in 1931 and they lived at 1663 from 1931-50. They were living at 925 Foul Bay Rd when William died in 1951.

1933-35: Retired stockbroker and widower James Alexander Wattie (b. Valleyfield, QC 1866-1939) was in a wheelchair and had a man-servant from India. He always had a huge number of children in to see him on Hallowe’en, and is fondly remembered for giving them each a dollar bill if they performed for him. James Wattie then moved to the Uplands.

1936-38: The Bullens’ daughter Roseanne Norah lived here, then married James Wattie’s son Ronald Purkis Wattie, an agent for Monarch Life, c.1938. They sold the house c.1940 to Gainsboro Apartments Ltd, who converted it to apartments.

1941-61: Princess Chirinsky-Chikhmatoff (1885-1971), formerly Jennie Ross (née Butchart) bought the vacant house and had it converted to six suites in 1944-45 by contractor E.J. Hunter. She was the eldest daughter of Jennie Foster (née Kennedy, 1869-1950) and Robert Pim Butchart (1856-1943), creators of The Butchart Gardens (TBG). Born in Owen Sound, ON, Jennie came to Victoria in 1906. She married Harry Allan Ross in 1917 and lived at Blair Gowrie on Runnymede Av in Oak Bay. Harry died in 1930 at 52. Jennie married an impoverished Russian aristocrat, Prince André Chirinsky-Chikhmatoff. Their marriage ended when André moved to New York. Jennie was a patron of musicals and theatre, and the Victoria Art Gallery (1040 Moss St, Rockland). Both she and her sister Mary were active in the management of The Butchart Gardens and in 1950 the Princess opened the first commercial tearoom at The Butchart Gardens, serving crumpets and marmalade for 25 cents

The Princess’s parents Jennie and Robert Butchart (1737 Rockland Av) also lived at 906 St. Charles from c.1941 until their deaths. Bob Butchart founded BC Cement Co in Todd Inlet on the Saanich Peninsula in 1904, supplying cement to all new construction in BC at the time. Jennie worked with her husband as a chemist for the company. After moving out to the company property, Jennie began developing The Butchart Gardens in 1906. Princess Chikhmatoff’s only child Ian Ross (1917-1997) inherited TBG when he turned 21, and ran them until his death. Ian’s daughter Robin Clarke (née Ross) now runs TBG, a National Historic Site since 2006.

1951-72: The Princess’s sister Mary, who married William Charles Todd in 1910, lived at 944 St. Charles St until 1951. She then moved into an apartment in 906 St. Charles. In 1961, the Princess moved to 1069 Beach Dr in Oak Bay with Ian Ross and his wife Ann-Lee. Mary Todd, the last Butchart to occupy this house, died here in 1972.


• 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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