ARCHITECT OR BUILDER
John & James Baker
968 Balmoral Road (ex-38 Frederick, 968 Fisguard)
For: John & James Baker
Builder: John & James Baker
968 and 1005 Balmoral Rd dominate this intersection with their complementary Queen Anne details and contrasting materials. This is a two-storey brick house with a steeply-pitched, gable-on-hip roof. On the front façade, an angled bay rises a full 2½ storeys, climaxing in a through-the-cornice gabled dormer. The corbelled dormer has wooden sunburst brackets on either side of a multi-paned window. The front entry porch has a steeply gabled roof supported on four turned posts and two pilasters; the starburst motif is repeated in the gable. The right side of the house has a 2½ storey gabled extension with a round-arched window in the corbelled gable. To the right is another gabled entry, which is recessed, and is the main business entry. There are stained glass windows in the gables and the front door. There are two corbelled chimneys. The brickwork on 968 and another Baker house, 714 Discovery St, Burnside, were the Bakers’ billboards, demonstrating the prowess of the highly successful Baker Brickworks. Examples of the Queen Anne style in brick are rare in Victoria.
Owners: 1893-1916+: Tax assessment rolls list John Baker (1851-1911) and James Baker (1854-1929; 714 Discovery St, Burnside) as owners of this rental property until at least 1916. John and James were born in London, ON, and came to Victoria with their family c.1866. John and James opened Baker Brothers brickyard, where Mayfair Mall now stands, in 1891 (see pg 20). Before that they had been teamsters, and John was later owner and manager of Victoria Ice Co. James lived for many years at 713 Pembroke St, and John, who didn’t marry, boarded with him. The eldest Baker brother, Michael (1839- 1905) and his wife Johannah (1841-1908) Baker lived at 30 Frederick St, then 954 Balmoral Rd, three doors to the west of this property, from 1876 to their deaths. He was born in Detroit, MI, and moved to Ottawa when he was young. In 1862 Michael married Johannah Hatch, and they moved to Victoria with his parents c.1866. Michael had training in furniture manufacturing and engaged in commercial agriculture before coming to Victoria. Here he became a building contractor, and eventually a supervising engineer with the HBC. He constructed many of the original wharves that lined the Inner Harbour. In 1875, Michael went into the grain merchant business with his father as R. Baker & Son, and continued in this business until his death. He was a founding member of the BC Agricultural Commission.
Tenants: 1895: Scottish native William MacHaffie (1836-1918) worked for Robert T. Williams & Co, bookbinders and printers on Broad St, which produced BC Directories for years. 1897-1908: Samuel Nish Reid (1859-1943) and Barbara (née Wilson, 1869-1932) married in 1894. Samuel emigrated from Scotland to Canada c.1876. His first wife, Elizabeth Smith, died in 1890 at 27. Samuel was manager and secretary-treasurer of S. Reid & Co, clothing and furnishing store on Government St. He was a founding member of the BC Agricultural
Tenants: 1895: Scottish native William MacHaffie (1836-1918) worked for Robert T. Williams & Co, bookbinders and printers on Broad St, which produced BC Directories for years.
1897-1908: Samuel Nish Reid (1859-1943) and Barbara (née Wilson, 1869-1932) married in 1894. Samuel emigrated from Scotland to Canada c.1876. His first wife, Elizabeth Smith, died in 1890 at 27. Samuel was manager and secretary-treasurer of S. Reid & Co, clothing and furnishing store on Government St. He later became an immigration agent. Barbara drowned in the Gorge Waterway; her body wasn’t found for a month. 1909: Alexander R. MacDonald, a driver for Wilson Bros.
1910-15: Labourer George Clinton Heller (b. Pennsylvania 1864-1939) came to Victoria in 1885 with his first wife, Swiss-born Mary Rose (née Bruno, 1861-1901), who operated a dressmaking business above Spencer’s Arcade until her death. George married 21-year-old Newfoundlandnative Mary Smith in 1901. He was employed at Brackman- Ker Milling Co for many years.
1917: Thomas Christopher Humphries (b. London, ENG 1876), a bricklayer and cook, was on WWI active service, but his wife Louisa and son Thomas C. lived here.
1918-25: Thomas Hall (1884-1956) and Florence (née Orrick, 1887-1969) came to Canada from England in 1912. Thomas worked with the City Police for over 32 years, as a jailer, then a desk sergeant. He was an honorary member of the Sons of England. The Halls then lived at 925 Balmoral Rd for many years.
1927: Percy and Vanda Huddlestone, retired, who then lived in 1217 Yukon St, Fernwood, in 1935-59. 1928-30: Sarah Elizabeth (née Branigan, b. ON 1870-1946), widow of John Leslie MacGregor (1870-1922), came to Victoria in 1906. Elizabeth was a Salvation Army Captain when she married in 1906.
1931-32: Popular Cafe employee and carpenter Francis Samuel “Sam” Dearborn (b. ON 1872-1944) and Mary Jane “Jennie” (née Cumming, b. Langton, ON 1870-1953).
1933-35: Pipefitter James Allen and his wife Elizabeth.
1936: Mrs. Margaret Rees.
1937-55: Alfred James Pratt (1873-1953) and Alice (née Hornett, 1878-1963) emigrated from England to Canada in 1901. They farmed in Esther, AB, until retiring to Victoria in 1936. Alice left the house after Alfred’s death.
For many years, this was a rooming house, then narrowly missed redevelopment. It was saved and rehabilitated in 1981-82 by Barney and Joanna Hagar as a home for themselves and their antiquarian bookshop, Poor Richard’s Books. They won a 1983 Hallmark Society Award for their superb restoration.