Heritage Register
James Bay

146 Clarence Street (ex-38 Simcoe St)

Built 1883; 1896
Heritage-Designated 1978

For: William J. & Sarah Anne Goepel

Architect: attrib. to John Teague*; Samuel Maclure

146 Clarence


This two-storey Italianate house has a low-pitched, multi-hipped roof which culminates in a square flat roof. Its wide eaves supported by sandwich brackets surround the house. The cornice and frieze are metal, as is the flared pent roof between the upper and lower angled bays on the front left wing of the house. Using metal instead of decorative wooden shingles on an 1880s Italianate is unusual. There is an angled bay towards the rear of the main floor on the left side. To the right of the front wing is a wide entry porch with bracketed, turned posts and a pilaster, under a shallow hipped roof. The right side of the porch formed the original extent of the house. The two-storey 1896 addition to the right of the porch has wide, shallow, square bays on the main floor of the front and the right side of the house. There is a chunky, cantilevered second floor bay on the rear. The three main floor bays all have hipped roofs. The lack of a beltcourse between floors and the use of tall, narrow windows emphasize the verticality of the structure; however, the house is visually pinned to the ground by its one-storey bays and porch.

This house was built in stages, visible in the two differing original sidings in the 1977 photo, and confirmed by assessments. Unfortunately, when asbestos insulation was removed in the late 1970s with the assistance of a grant from the Victoria Heritage Foundation, new siding was applied to the whole house, thus losing the visual information. The new siding is neither as wide nor as narrow as the older claddings. The 1883 section has similar proportions to the mirror-image 1884 house at 638 Rockland Pl, Rockland. 146 previously faced Simcoe St and was moved on the property in 1896 when the addition was built.


William John Goepel paid the taxes until 1897. Born in London, England, he came to BC in 1875 and married Sarah Bate in 1881. He was a gentleman and real estate agent, but may have lost money in the 1893 depression, because by 1895 he was a gold commissioner in the Kootenays (his residence was still listed as 38 Simcoe), and by 1898 a Government Inspector in Nelson, BC. The Goepels returned to Victoria by 1920, and William became Deputy Minister of Finance for the Province. He died in Victoria in 1936 at 79. Sarah was the daughter of Mark Bate, first mayor of Nanaimo, BC, in 1875, and a long-time member of St. Mary’s Anglican Church Choir in Oak Bay, Sir James and Lady Douglas Chapter of IODE, the Women’s Club, and BC Historical Association. She was also active in charitable organizations, including the Women’s Auxiliary of St. Mary’s Church, as president of the Altar Guild, the Mothers’ Union and Little Helpers, and the Friendly Help Club. Sarah died in 1944 at 92. Clarence St was named after the Goepels’ youngest son, Clarence Dorset Goepel (1883-1947). Born in Victoria, he lived in Oak Bay 35 years and owned Pacific Chemical Co.


From 1898-1906, the BC Corporation paid the taxes and rented to several families. From 1899-1902, it was the home of Judge Eli and Unice Harrison, who married in Victoria in 1880. Eli was born in England in 1852 and came to Victoria with his parents, Elizabeth and Eli, Sr, a carpenter, in 1858. For many years before and after 1900, Eli and Unice lived in Nanaimo. In the Victoria Daily Colonist, 1891 April 18, page one, we read: ... Mr. (C.J.) Soule, architect, has just let contracts for Judge Harrison’s new residence at Nanaimo...* The Harrisons’ sons were also prominent in the Vancouver Island legal profession.

William Wallace Gibson and his wife Hattie owned this property from 1907-12. William was born in Ayrshire, Scotland, in the mid-1870s, and came to Canada with his family in 1882. They made their way to what would become Saskatchewan, settling in the remote town of Wolseley, where their closest neighbours were a band of Cree led by Chief Piapot. William grew up fascinated by flying and experimenting with kites. He opened a blacksmith shop in Wolseley. In 1901 he bought a bankrupt hardware business and shipped the inventory to Balgonie, SK. His success as a merchant enabled him to turn his attention to his hobby: he began making model airplanes and became known as the “Birdman of Balgonie.” The success of the Wright Brothers in Kitty Hawk, NC, in 1903 was a great inspiration to William. He studied propellers and simple engines, and in 1904 launched a small model off a building; it flew successfully 130 feet before crashing into a boxcar. He began building a full-size plane. Unfortunately, he lost $40,000 in the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, and after paying off his debts, found himself bankrupt.

The Gibsons moved to Victoria in 1907, and William met a prospector who sold him a goldmine near Clayoquot. The money William earned from the mine allowed him to finish building his plane. It had a two-cylinder, six-cycle, air-cooled engine, and is now on display at the National Aeronautical Museum in Ottawa. He built the engine at Hutchinson Brothers’ machine shop on Bay St near VMD, the plane in the coach house behind this house, and had tires custom-built at Thomas Plimley’s. An initial test flight on September 8, 1910, resulted in a damaged undercarriage. On September 24, 1910, William made history when he flew his “Twin-Plane” with 20-foot spruce wings, 25 feet in the air for 200 feet above a grassy field SW of Richmond and Lansdowne Rds, before hitting an oak tree. He became the “Birdman of Victoria”. This was the first flight by a Canadian of a Canadian-built plane in Western Canada. It was also the first use of Lansdowne field as Victoria’s airfield, which it remained until after WWII.William attempted to design another plane, but lost another $20,000, and he and Hattie moved to California, where he became a successful businessman. In 1948, the Piapot Crees made William an honourary chief, naming him Chief Kisikaw Wawasam, or “Flash-in-the-sky-boy.” William died in Oakland, CA, in 1965. He was 91.

By 1917, William Howard Carnes (1873-1955) and Amelia Florence (Wills) McGregor (1881-1926) were living here. William, a hardware merchant, was born in Carleton Place, ON. He came to Victoria in 1877, and in 1911, married Amelia, who moved here in 1906 from Liverpool, England. Amelia died of pneumonia and William left the house soon after.

Architects Orme & Levinson won a 1977 Hallmark Society Award for the restoration of the house.

* research by Dorothy Mindenhall.

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