This Art Deco building at 812 Wharf Street, at the intersection of Government Street and Wharf Street, across from the Empress Hotel, is now the Tourism Victoria Visitor Centre.

The Tourism Victoria Visitor Centre at 812 Wharf Street was originally built in 1931 as an Imperial Oil service station.

The Tourism Victoria Visitor Centre at 812 Wharf Street was originally built in 1931 as an Imperial Oil service station.

This building was originally built in 1931 by the Vancouver architectural firm of Townley and Matheson

[Fred Laughton Townley (1887-1966) and Robert Michael Matheson (1887-1935)] as a service station for Imperial Oil. It is an historically significant building, placed on Canada’s Register of Historic Places in 1986.

The building’s tower featured a 10 million candle power Sperry Beacon, intended as a navigational aid for float planes approaching Victoria’s Inner Harbour at night, which could seen up to 100 kilometers (60 miles) away. The Sperry Beacon is still in place.

The Tourism Victoria Visitor Centre, 812 Wharf Street. This Art Deco building was originally built in 1931 by Imperial Oil as a service station. The tower still features a Sperry searchlight intended as a navigation beacon for aircraft.

The Tourism Victoria Visitor Centre, 812 Wharf Street. This Art Deco building was originally built in 1931 by Imperial Oil as a service station. The tower still features a Sperry searchlight intended as a navigation beacon for aircraft.

In March 2015, the City of Victoria purchased 812 Wharf Street from the Province of British Columbia for $7.98 million. The City of Victoria paid these funds from its Building and Infrastructure Reserve Fund and intends to pay back the money, with interest, over a 22 year period.

At the time of the purchase, the City of Victoria stated that this building produced $980,000 in annual revenue with annual expenses of $520,000.

A Brief History of the Causeway Garage Building, 812 Wharf Street

This building was originally built in 1931 by the Vancouver architectural firm of Townley and Matheson [Fred Laughton Townley (1887-1966) and Robert Michael Matheson (1887-1935)] as a service station for Imperial Oil. It is a historically significant building, placed on Canada’s Register of Historic Places in 1986.

The 1931 design incorporated an earlier one story brick structure built on the site in 1911 by the City of Victoria, at a cost of $11,000, as a “public comfort.” When the Imperial Oil station opened in 1931 the Daily Colonist reported that “the city comfort station….has been taken over by [Imperial Oil] and improved. It will be maintained by [Imperial Oil] under an agreement with the city.”

The Daily Colonist also reported that the new Causeway Garage offered everything required for the “fueling, storage, washing, greasing and repairing of cars, also handling the Vancouver Island agency for Stromberg carburetors and Bendix brakes……The general repair section is located on the lower floor, reached by an easy grade ramp, wide enough to accommodate two cars abreast…” This “easy grade ramp” is still evident today.

The photo below shows the Causeway Garage in 1931, likely during construction. Note that the “easy grade ramp” to the vehicle entrance doors on the lower level had not been completed when this photo was taken.

812 Wharf Street in 1931, this photograph appears to have been taken during construction of the building. Note that the ramp to the car entrance has not yet been completed. (photo courtesy of Glenbow Museum, used with permission)

812 Wharf Street in 1931, this photograph appears to have been taken during construction of the building. Note that the ramp to the car entrance on the lower level had not yet been completed. (photo courtesy of Glenbow Archives, Imperial Oil collection, used with permission)

The photos below show 812 Wharf Street as an ESSO gas station in 1958. Note the Black Ball Ferries (M.V. Coho) terminal adjacent to the ESSO station.

812 Wharf Street in 1958. Note the adjacent Black Ball Line ferry terminal (photo courtesy of Glenbow Museum, used with permission)

812 Wharf Street as an ESSO station in 1958. Note the adjacent Black Ball Line ferry terminal (photo courtesy of Glenbow Archives Imperial Oil collection, used with permission)

812 Wharf Street in 1958. Note the adjacent Black Ball Line ferry terminal (photo courtesy of Glenbow Museum, used with permission)

812 Wharf Street as an ESSO station  in 1958. Note the adjacent Black Ball Line ferry terminal (photo courtesy of Glenbow Archives Imperial Oil collection, used with permission)

The photos below show 812 Wharf Street as an ESSO station circa 1960. Note the former Black Ball Ferry terminal became a BC Ferries terminal after BC Ferries was formed in 1958.

812 Wharf Street as an ESSO station, circa 1960. Note the adjacent BC Ferries terminal. (photo courtesy of Glenbow Museum, used with permission)

812 Wharf Street as an ESSO station, circa 1960. Note the adjacent BC Ferries terminal. (photo courtesy of Glenbow Archives Imperial Oil collection, used with permission)

812 Wharf Street as an ESSO station, circa 1960 (photo courtesy of Glenbow Museum, used with permission)

812 Wharf Street as an ESSO station, circa 1960 (photo courtesy of Glenbow Archives Imperial Oil collection, used with permission)

In March 2015, the City of Victoria purchased 812 Wharf Street from the Province of British Columbia for $7.98 million. The City of Victoria paid these funds from its Building and Infrastructure Reserve Fund and intends to pay back the money, with interest, over a 22 year period.

At the time of the purchase, the City of Victoria stated that this building produced $980,000 in annual revenue with annual expenses of $520,000.

For more information on the Causeway Garage building at 812 Wharf Street:

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