Heritage Register

1021 Gillespie Place (ex-1021 Moss St)

Built 1869

For: Bank of British Columbia

1021 Gillespie


Highwood has seen many renovations over its long life. Early archival photos show a restrained two-storey brick Italianate house with a shallow-eaved, hipped roof and paired front gables. The gables have 1-storey angled bays in front with balustraded roofs; there is a complex wing on the left side with one- and two-storey parts, and both hipped and gabled roofs; and a balustraded deck runs across the entire front and becomes a single-storey porch on the right side. There is stone quoining and, unusually for an Italianate residence, simple detailing in the flat-linteled window frames and flattened-arch entry.

Over time the front gables disappeared and the roof was replaced by a wider-eaved one. All the balustrades were removed. The left wing first ballooned into a two-storey Queen Anne extension, and then shrank to a one-storey hipped-roof wing with attached carport. The right side porch was glassed in, and then replaced by a single-storey hipped-roof wing on the right-rear corner with a deck in front. The entire surface of the house was covered with roughcast stucco, leaving only the chimneys as a hint of the brick original. Even they are simple replacements for the original stacks that were virtually the only original flamboyant element on the house. Much of this may be the $6,000 in improvements that the Colonist listed for owner William Ward in 1889. Later houses were built around it, reducing its surrounding grounds and changing its street address from Moss St to Gillespie Pl.


Highwood played an important part in the social life of Victoria for many years. As the official residence of the powerful Bank of British Columbia, it first housed manager William C. Ward. The street acquired its name from a succeeding manager, George Gillespie.

William Curtis Ward (c.1842-1922) was born and educated in England. He came to Victoria on the Sierra Nevada in 1864; by 1866, still in his 20s, he was manager of the Victoria branch of the Bank of BC, after Capt Lang. William married Lydia Sothcot (c.1847-1920) shortly before coming to Canada; she joined him in Victoria in 1865. William retired in 1897, and became chairman of the London Board of the bank. They returned to Victoria during WWI, and lived at a Dunsmuir residence on Shasta Pl, Westover, later demolished (see 1525 Shasta Pl, Rockland). William was ill for some years, and after Lydia’s death in 1920, left for California in the hopes of recovering, but died there in 1922.


In 1897 George (1851-1921) and Florence “Adelaide” (Hebden, 1858-1939) Gillespie moved in. George was born on Staten Island, NY, to Scottish parents. In 1877 he came to Victoria from Hamilton, ON, where he married Florence. They had eight children. George’s relative Sir Robert Gillespie founded the Bank of BC; George began as a teller with the bank and worked his way up to general manager. He retained this position even in 1901, when the Canadian Bank of Commerce took over the Bank of BC. George retired in 1909, and died of heart failure in 1921.

Adelaide lived here with son Dugald until 1935,and died in New Westminster. Dugald Llewellyn Gillespie (1885-1981) married Victoria-born Marguerite Louise Bury (Holden, 1890-1953) in 1916, then Elizabeth Robertson after Marguerite’s death. Dugald was educated in Victoria and the Loretto School near Edinburgh, Scotland, with his brothers. They all served overseas during WWI. Dugald returned to Victoria and in the mid-1920s was managing director of MacKay & Gillespie. After 1935, he moved to Toronto and became president and managing director of the Distillers Co of Canada. He returned to Victoria, engaged in philanthropic activities, and was president of the Victoria chapter of the Canadian Cancer Society in 1968-69. Gillespie Rd in Sooke was named for the family. They donated the land in East Sooke for the Sisters of St. Ann retreat Glenairlie.

The eldest Gillespie sons, John Hebden “Heb” and Alexander married sisters Mai and Nellie, daughters of J.H. and Rosanna Todd (1525 Shasta Pl, Rockland; 423 Chadwick Pl, Gonzales). Youngest son Errol Tilkington Gillespie married the Wards’ granddaughter Catharine Oliver; in 2008 their grandson Bruce Gillespie designated 865 Academy Close (Fairfield).

Mary Elizabeth (Packard, 1864-1950), widow of Edmund James Palmer (1856-1924), moved to this house in 1935. Mary was born in Wisconsin, where she married Edmund in 1879. In 1889 they came to BC. Edmund was associated with Victoria Lumber & Manufacturing Co in Chemainus until he died in 1924. Mary lived in Vancouver and Toronto, then in Highwood until her death.

By 1951, Hon. Gordon Sylvester Wismer (1888-1968) and his wife Dorothy Isabel (Hillhouse) lived here. Gordon was born in Sutton, ON, moved to Vancouver in 1907 and to Victoria in 1946. He began practising law in 1913 and by 1922, ran his own firm, becoming one of BC’s best known criminal lawyers. He was elected Liberal MLA for Vancouver Centre in 1933, and in 1937 became BC’s attorney general, a position he served until 1952. As AG, he disbanded the BC Police Force in 1950, shifting policing responsibilities to the RCMP. Gordon returned to practising law until retiring in 1960. He was still living here when he died in 1968.


• Map of Victoria's Heritage Register Properties

• Rockland History

• Rockland Heritage Register

• This Old House, Victoria's Heritage Neighbourhoods,
Volume Three: Rockland, Burnside, Harris Green,
Hillside-Quadra, North Park & Oaklands

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