Downtown Victoria Tour

Government Street – 1700 Block

1715-1717 Government Street – Chinese Empire Reform Association Building

1715 and 1717 Government Street were built by the Chinese Empire Reform Association in 1905 at a cost of $10,000.

1713, 1715 and 1715 Government Street. (photo by Victoria Online Sightseeing Tours)

Here is a map showing the location of 1715-1717 Government Street:

Here is a Google Street View image of 1715 Government Street:

 

 

Additional Information About 1715 Government Street:

  • Assessed Value (July 2018): $1,330,000; Land: $674,000; Buildings: $656,000
  • Assessed Value (July 2017): $1,256,000; Land: $591,000; Buildings: $665,000
  • Assessed Value (July 2016): $1,264,000; Land: $591,000; Buildings: $673,000
  • Assessed Value (July 2015): $1,178,000; Land: $525,000; Buildings: $643,000

A Brief History of 1715 and 1717 Government Street

1715 and 1717 Government Street were built by the Chinese Empire Reform Association in 1905 at a cost of $10,000.  The original building permit described their intended use as lodge rooms and two stores.

The Chinese Empire Reform Association, also known as the Protect the Emperor Society or Baohuanghui, was established in Victoria in 1899 by an exiled Chinese teacher and philosopher named Kang Yu Wei.

In Beijing, between June and September 1898, Kang had been closely involved with the Chinese Emperor Guangxu in the Hundred Days of Reform, an attempt to change China’s ruling Qing Dynasty from an autocracy into a constitutional monarchy. These attempted reforms had provoked a harsh response from the Emperor’s aunt, the Empress Dowager Ci Xi, who feared the proposed changes would weaken the Quin Dynasty. The Empress imprisoned the Emperor, executed many of the reformers and forced others, like Kang Yu Wei, into exile.

Kang came to Victoria, where he founded the Chinese Empire Reform Association to continue working toward the goals of the Hundred Days of Reform. By bringing pressure on the Quin Dynasty from abroad the Association hoped to ultimately bring about political change in China. The Baohuanghui attracted a large membership among the Chinese diaspora; one historian has described it as “the largest and possibly the most influential overseas Chinese organization that has ever existed.”

By 1905, when it built this building as its Victoria headquarters, the Chinese Empire Reform Association had about 160 local branches throughout North America, Europe and Asia.

With the formation of the Republic of China in 1912, the Chinese Empire Reform Association became redundant and its membership plummeted. Facing financial difficulties, the Chinese Empire Reform Association sold the portion of the building at 1717 Government Street to Lung Kong Kung Shaw, a benevolent society comprised of Chinese with the surnames Lau, Kwan, Cheung and Chiu. 1715 Government Street and 1717 Government Street are now legally two separate buildings.

The Government Street facade of 1715-1717 Government Street was renovated and restored in 2009. Among other features, a new decorative parapet, to replace the original which had been removed many years before, was installed.

Here are links to some historic photographs of 1715-1717 Government Street:

Original lion head decorative detail on the Chinese Empire Reform Association building at 1715-1717 Government Street.

Original lion head decorative detail on the Chinese Empire Reform Association building at 1715-1717 Government Street. (photo by Victoria Online Sightseeing Tours)

The Chinese Empire Reform Association building under renovation in 2009.

The Chinese Empire Reform Association building under renovation in 2009. (photo by Victoria Online Sightseeing Tours)

Here are photos showing some architectural details of 1715-1717 Government Street:

New signage and original lion head decorative detail on the Chinese Empire Reform Association building at 1715-1717 Government Street.

New signage and original lion head decorative detail on the Chinese Empire Reform Association building at 1715-1717 Government Street. (photo by Victoria Online Sightseeing Tours)

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