Heritage Register
James Bay

221 Quebec Street (ex-84 Quebec St)

Built 1889
Heritage-Designated 1977

For: Ralph & Phoebe Borthwick

Architect: John Teague

221 Quebec


The Borthwicks built two matching houses in 1889 for $2,000 each. The twin house at 219 Quebec was demolished. This two-storey Italianate house has the typical shallow hipped roof with unpaired cornice brackets. The cuboid effect is relieved on the front by a small rectangular porch beside an octagonal bay, both with pent roofs. The porch has slim, turned columns and pilasters. The original design of the porch balustrade has been repeated in the stair balustrade. The house, raised on timbers for several years, was eventually lowered onto a brick foundation and sympathetically rehabilitated. An extension was added at the rear. This house is part of a 2-house heritage grouping with 225 Quebec St, and is reminiscent of several Italianate homes of the same era on South Turner St in James Bay.


1889-92: Ralph and Phoebe Borthwick lived in this house three years before moving next door to 225 Quebec St. They then used this property for rental revenue.

Ralph, born in Manchester in 1838, came to New York in 1842, California in 1856 and to Victoria on the steamer Orizaba in 1858 to seek his fortune in gold. He met Isabella Kier, daughter of a wealthy Cowichan farmer, and married her in 1863 after striking it rich in the Cariboo. He was a saloonkeeper at Pritchard House on Yates St in the 1870s and early 1890s, a gold miner in the early 1880s, and an iron moulder by 1901. Isabella died of TB in 1880 at 31. Ralph’s second wife, Phoebe Weller, was born in Kent in 1840 and arrived here in 1877. Her first husband, Charles Caldwell, died in 1885 and she married Ralph in 1887. Phoebe died in 1907 at 67, Ralph in 1921 at 84.


Tenants: 1897-98: Ontario-born jeweller Thomas Challoner and wife Anna left Victoria by 1912.
1899-1902: Archibald Lees and wife Laura, daughter of Ralph Borthwick and his first wife Isabella, then moved to 219 and lived there for many years. Archibald, a Scottish-born engineer, came to Victoria in the early 1890s. A member of Columbia Lodge No 2, IOOF, he died in 1943 at 84. Laura died in 1938 at 64 (her sister Gertrude married Thomas Leeming, 530 Dallas Rd).

1912-15: Capt. Robert and Emma (née Robson) Hunter lived at 243 Kingston St, James Bay, 1917-20. Emma, daughter of William and Ann (née Munro) Robson, was born in Kent and came here from Mayne Island, BC, when she married Robert in 1896. She died in 1941 at 67. Robert was born in the Shetland Islands in 1866. He came to Victoria in 1889 and worked for Pacific Navigation Co as a quartermaster. He earned his master mariner papers in 1901, and captained the SS Transfer, a sternwheeler on the Fraser River, and the SS Charmer. In 1909, Robert commanded CPR’s BCCSS Princess Adelaide between Victoria and Vancouver for 18 years, then Princess Marguerite until retiring in 1934. A member of AF&AM, Robert died in the Lebanon Nursing Home (1270 Yates St, Fernwood) in 1949.

1930-32: Albert and Winnifred Abbott; Albert, born in England, came to BC in 1910, married New Brunswick-native Winnifred Wright in Chilliwack in 1911, and moved to Victoria by 1920. A labourer, from the late 1940s he was a supervisor and car washer for Wilson Motors, until just before his death in 1955 at 68.

1941-74: Scottish farmers Alexander and Isabella (née Parley) Davidson retired to Victoria from their native Aberdeenshire in 1939. Alexander died in 1967 aged 83, Isabella in 1974 aged 87.


• James Bay History

• James Bay Heritage Register

• This Old House, Victoria's Heritage Neighbourhoods,
Volume Two: James Bay

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