Heritage Register
James Bay

609 Toronto Street (ex-36 Toronto St)

Built 1891
Heritage-Designated 1999

For: Margaret & William Garnham

609 Toronto


This house is a modest example of the Second Empire-style, distinguished by its mansard roof. There are three round-arched dormers in the mansard, two on the front and one towards the rear on the right side of the house. The mansard is shingled with a contrasting-coloured band of fishscale shingles. There is a small iron balustrade on the flat-topped, hip-roofed, box bay on the front façade. The front porch to the left side was enclosed in the 1970s. The roof of the bay and the porch also have fishscale shingles. The house was raised in 1932 to accommodate the full garage below, and the front door was probably moved around the corner; instead of the garage, there is now a basement-level suite. In the 1960s, various owners added asbestos shingle siding and aluminum picture windows. The mansard roof of 609 is now unique in James Bay, and one of only about four such residences in Victoria.

Margaret Priscilla (née Reed, b. Quebec City 1840-1918) and William Garnham (b. Suffolk, ENG 1830-1908) bought this piece of Beckley Farm for $1,500 in 1890. They built 601, 603 and 609 Toronto St c.1891-92, as rental property [Note: the lot wasn’t subdivided until 1924.] William came to Montreal in 1855 with his first wife, Harriet Moore. He and second wife, Margaret, came to BC in the mid-1890s, and farmed in the Colquitz area of Saanich. In 1904, son Frederick (b. Montreal 1859-1938) his wife Alice Annie (née McLeod, b. Bloomfield Station, King’s County, NB 1863-1947) and family (620 Battery St, 15 Menzies St, 601 Toronto St, James Bay) came to Victoria. William and Margaret were living with Frederick, wharfman for R.P. Rithet & Co, and Alice in 601 Toronto St in 1908 when William died. Margaret moved to 609 Toronto St in 1910, and remained until her death. She left virtually her entire estate to the SPCA in Montreal.


Tenants: 1892-93: James Forman (b. Halifax, NS 1860-1944) and Hannah Selina (née Logan, b. Stewiacke, NS 1861-1929) (1000 Terrace Av, Rockland) came to Victoria in 1891 and were the first occupants of this house. James, a real estate agent with Heisterman, Forman & Co, retired in 1942 after 50 years in the business.


1899-1908: Carpenter Lewis/Louis German (1846-1929) and his wife Florence (née Griggs, 1848-1929) came to the West Coast from Ontario in 1889.

1909-11: Frederick and Alice Garnham.
1910-18: Margaret Garnham.

The house was vacant through much of the 1920s, but among a succession of landlords and renters in later years:

Owners: 1921-23: Richard Emil Layritz (b. Dresden, GER c. 1867-1954) and Dorothy (née Giles, b. London, ENG c.1882-1974) married in 1919. Richard came to Victoria in 1889 and established Layritz Nurseries on what is now 4354 Wilkinson Rd in Saanich, and built his house there (this was the first house to be designated heritage in Saanich).

1929-43: Ernest Wickham Barnes (b. London, ENG 1889-1967) and Laura (née Mowat, b. South Shields, ENG 1892-1945) lived in White Rock, BC, briefly before moving to Victoria in the early 1920s. Ernest was a window cleaner for 35 years, retiring in 1954. The Barnes raised the house in 1932.

1947-60: Frank Ernest Whale (b. Kamloops, BC 1910-1968) and Josephine Cordelia (née Latremouille, b. Kamloops, BC c.1912-2005) married in Kamloops and came to Victoria in 1945. Frank was proprietor of Whale’s Arts and Ceramics until his death. A later tenant claimed “16 hippies” lived here simultaneously during the ‘60s!

1975-92: UVic theatre professor John F. Krich.

1998-2017: Nick and Sharon Russell were the 17th owners. They removed asbestos siding and, with the help of paint shadows and one surviving photograph which indicated what was missing, they restored all missing exterior details, replaced modern windows with appropriate one-over-one wooden double-hung sashes, reroofed the mansard with cedar shingles, and painted the house in an historical colour scheme. In 2001, they won Hallmark Society and BC Heritage Society Awards for their efforts.


• James Bay History

• James Bay Heritage Register

• Before & Afters

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

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