Downtown Victoria Tour
Government Street – 1200 Block
1239-1241 Government Street
This building at 1239-1241 Government Street, at the intersection of Government Street and Yates Street, was standing in 1871 and may have been built as early as 1860, making it one of the oldest buildings in downtown Victoria. The main floor has been used as retail space for most of its history. The current occupant is Street Jeans Wear, 1241 Government Street.
This building is listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places.
Here is a map showing the location of 1239-1241 Government Street:
Here is a Google Street View image of 1239-1241 Government Street:
Additional Information About 1239-1241 Government Street
This building is legally consolidated with the adjacent buildings on Yates Street.
- Assessed Value (July 2019): $4,708,000; Land $3,2520,000 Buildings $1,456,000
- Assessed Value (July 2018): $4,481,000; Land $2,930,000 Buildings $1,551,000
- Assessed Value (July 2017): $3,740,000; Land $2,645,000 Buildings $1,095,000
- Assessed Value (July 2016): $3,300,000; Land $2,514,000 Buildings $786,000
- Assessed Value (July 2015): $3,129,000; Land $2,168,000 Buildings $961,000
- Assessed Value (July 2014): $3,117,000; Land $2,048,000 Buildings $1,069,000
- Canadian Register of Historic Places
A Brief History of 1239-1241 Government Street
Records show that this building at 1239-1241 Government Street was standing in 1871 and it is possible that it built as early as 1860, making it one of the oldest buildings in downtown Victoria.
Some architectural historians have attributed the design and construction of this building to architect John Teague, although this cannot be stated with certainty.
Other records suggest this building was built in 1865 for a druggist named Zelner (no other name was given), who opened a store on the ground level. Mr. Zelner also rented out ground floor retail space to a jeweler named Marks and a milliner and dry goods dealer named Lash (again, no first names were listed). Records from 1865 describe the building as “one of the finest [buildings] on Government [street]…an ornament to that part of town” and “a jewel set in the heart of the city [which] when lighted up at night has a dazzling effect [and which makes] this corner the most attractive in the city.” Other contemporary records indicate the original building construction cost was estimated at $18,000.
In 1869, local architect Richard Lewis undertook alterations to the Yates street frontage and interior space used by Zelner’s drug store to allow the Deluge Fire Company, one of Victoria’s three volunteer fire brigades of the time, to use that portion of the building as a fire hall. The Deluge Fire Company occupied space in this building until 1877, when it moved to a new fire hall, still standing one block east at 636 Yates Street. The 1869 addition by Richard Lewis can still be seen on Yates Street where a door appears in the building’s second floor frontage.
Between 1865 and 1878 the upper floor of the building was known as Alhambra Hall and was used as a meeting room, auditorium and concert hall. One of the most prominent speakers known to have appeared at Alhambra Hall was the American women’s rights advocate Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906), who delivered a lecture in this building entitled “The Power of the Ballot” on three consecutive evenings in 1871, in which she argued for women being given the right to vote.
Throughout the first half of the 20th century, the main floor of this building was occupied by retail stores.
In 1948 the main floor of the building was renovated for the Poodle Dog Restaurant, a popular dining spot which had been in business in Victoria since 1885. Before moving to this location the Poodle Dog Restaurant had been in the Metropolis Hotel,The Poodle Dog Restaurant operated here until the 1970’s. The Poodle Dog was replaced by the Omelette House, which operated here until the 1980’s.
The main floor of this building has since been converted back to retail usage. The current occupant is Street Jeans Wear.
Here are links to some historic photos of this building:
- BC Archives photo A-03005 – circa 1890
- BC Archives photo I-01663 – in 1947. Photographer: Duncan Macphail
- City of Victoria Archives photo M04096 – 1959
- City of Victoria Archives photo M04095 – circa 1965
Would you like to leave a comment or question about anything on this page?