Heritage Register
James Bay

154 South Turner Street (ex-4 South Turner St)

Built 1896
Heritage-Designated 1999

For: James & George Mesher

Builder: George C. Mesher & Co
Designer: attributed to a Pattern Book plan

154 South Turner


This hip-roofed, two-storey, late-Victorian Queen Anne house has a hip-roofed extension on the rear. There is a shallow, full-height gabled box bay on the left side of the house, and gabled wings on the front and right sides. Beneath the gable on the right is a long, shallow boxed bay, containing a stained glass stairwell window, which cuts through the belt course. A hooded roof between the front and side gable is missing all of the porch details below it. An angled bay on the upper floor below the front gable sits within a rectangular balcony jettied over a wider angled bay on the main floor. The balcony has two unusual columns and is supported on modillions. On the front left corner is an octagonal turret, originally with chunky modillions under the eaves. The house was covered in asbestos shingles in the 1940s or 50s, and most of the details lost. The archival photo shows the main floor clad in drop siding, the upper in shingles with rows of decorative shingles, and stucco and half-timbering in the gables. The photo also details weather vane, roof cresting, finials, painted corbelled chimneys, and the fence. A unique feature of this property is its carriage house, with horse stalls and tack room on the ground floor, and hay loft above. In 1999 this became the second carriage house to receive Heritage Designation in Victoria.

George C. Mesher & Co built many of Victoria’s fine residences, including mansions in Rockland designed by W. Ridgway Wilson and Samuel Maclure. The partnership eventually became one of the largest building and contracting firms in the region. In the 1890s they received their biggest contract, for the Five Sisters Block (destroyed by fire in 1910), a 4-storey building designed by Sorby & Wilson. George designed and built some of Victoria’s larger buildings including October Mansions Apartments (1030 Cook St, Harris Green) in 1910, Pemberton Block (now Yarrows Bldg) in 1911, Sayward Block (625 Fort / 1201-13 Douglas) in 1911, Savoy Mansions (749 McClure St) in 1911, and Hampton Court Apartments (159 Cook St, Fairfield) in 1913. George’s father retired in the 1890s, but was involved until his death in 1912. George retired c.1924 and died in 1938 at 70. Janet died in 1946 at 76.


1896-1903: The property was purchased by Janet Elizabeth Mesher (née McDonald, b. Surrey, ENG c.1870-1946) from A.C. Flummerfelt (855 Pemberton Rd, Rockland); her husband, architect and contractor George Charles Mesher (b. Weybourne, Surrey, ENG 1860-1938), built this as their home. George, eldest of eight children, learned the building trade from his father, George Mesher, Sr. Father and son came to Victoria in 1886 and established a contracting partnership the following year under the son’s name. George C. went back to Surrey in 1892 and married Janet. Later they bought several lots on South Turner St. In 1903, they moved to 630 Dallas Rd.


1904-2005: Alfred Penner Briggs (b. Kingston, ON 1852-1905) and Minna Evelyn Veronica (née Tillman, b. Boston 1865-1952). Minna came to BC in 1885. Alfred was engaged in the steamboat business on the Fraser River in the 1880s. The couple arrived here by 1895; Alfred was proprietor of the Empire Hotel at 38 Johnson St from 1895-1900. Alfred returned to steamboats for a brief time. From 1901, Alfred and partner Seth Lewis Chamberlain (b. NH 1855-1928) owned and managed the Grotto Saloon at 1 Trounce Alley. Minna lived in the house until 1911, and then again from 1917 until her death. She was actively involved with the Altar Society of St. Andrew’s Cathedral, the Catholic Women’s League, was a charter member of the Ladies’ Auxiliary of St. Joseph’s Hospital, and treasurer of the Women’s Conservative Club.

Son Tillman Alfred Briggs (1886-1958), physician and surgeon, studied medicine at McGill University, and was the house doctor at St. Joseph’s Hospital when WWI broke out. In 1916, he served overseas with the Canadian Army Medical Corps and won the Military Cross, presented to him at Buckingham Palace by King George V. He moved to Courtenay, BC in the mid-1920s, established a medical practice, and married Hazel Veronica Benjamin (b. Kamloops, BC 1904-1986) in Duncan in 1926. During WWII, he was medical officer for the three armed services in the area.

Daughter Frances Eileen (1893-1978) never married and lived in this house until her death. The house passed to her nephew, Tillman A. Briggs, son of Dr. Briggs; he sold it after 102 years of family ownership.


• James Bay History

• James Bay Heritage Register

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

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