Constructed around 1937 by Mr. And Mrs. Alex Gusola this building replaced an earlier pre-1900 structure which burned down in 1936. The Gusola’s operated the “Nanaimo Smoke Shop” a tobacco shop and razor repair service in the building for many years. The building has also been occupied by a number of restaurants and retail stores.
The building was designed by local contractor, W. E. Turley of Turley Brothers Contractors and clearly exhibits a late Art Deco style influence. With a few notable exceptions, most of Nanaimo’s buildings were not architect designed. The building shares some basic similarities with the B.C. Hydro Building (13 Commercial Street) constructed in 1941, the most apparent being the triangular building form. However, this building is much simpler in detail. The Gusola Block’s blend of architectural styles exemplifies the predominantly vernacular nature of Nanaimo’s architecture and underlines the city’s modest, working class character.
A significant rehabilitation and adaptation of the building to a mixed residential/commercial use was completed in 2007. Although altered, the building still retains much of its original integrity and along with the B.C. Hydro Building (1941), the Eagles Hall (1934), and Tom Brown’s Autobody (1937) forms part of the Downtown core’s Art Deco influenced building history.
The Gusola Block forms part of a significant cluster of heritage buildings located at a prominent intersection on the main downtown thoroughfare, and is an excellent example of a building designed to fit an irregularly shaped lot. The triangular lot was defined by Nanaimo’s original topography; until the inner harbour was filled in the 1960s, this lot followed the line of the original waterfront.