Heritage Register - Harrison Residence

Building Details
Name: Harrison Residence
Address: 546 Prideaux Street
Architectural Style: Victorian
Building Use: Residential
Year of Construction: 1894
Builder or Architect: Unknown
Protected Heritage Property: Yes

Heritage Value Statement

Built around 1892, the Harrison Residence is a very good example of Late Victorian Eclectic architecture. The picturesque massing of the building reflects the Late Victorian enthusiasm for complex roof lines and decorated surfaces. Although some of the ornate chimneys have been removed and the front entry replaced, the building remains essentially intact.

The Harrison Residence is a rare surviving example of the type of prestigious housing that predominated in this area, known as Nob Hill, from its first development around 1870 until around 1910. Here, the city’s commercial and professional elite built substantial homes, many of which featured excellent harbour views. By the early 20th century, Nanaimo’s middle class were relocating to areas further north and west, away from the city centre. Today, the neighbourhood is a mix of apartment buildings, boarding houses and single family houses and has lost much of its upscale character, but surviving early residences, such as this building, testify to the original nature of the area.

The residence is associated with a succession of prominent Nanaimo citizens. Built for Judge Eli Harrison, the house was subsequently owned by the Honourable Dr. R.E. McKechnie (Member of the Provincial Parliament, President of the Provincial Executive Council and doctor for the Coal Company), Dr. James Hogle who operated a ladies hospital from the house and much later, by Shelby Saunders, a prominent businessman and real estate developer, who opened the Pygmy Pavilion as a dance hall. The hall was popular with soldiers stationed here during W.W.II, and Saunders broke his house up into suites for some of the soldiers’ wives. Between the wars, this house became a boy’s residential and day school, known as St. George’s On-The-Hill. It was modelled on an English style boys’ school, with a number of boarders whose families were travelling; for some, it was an alternative to jail.

The residence’s height, mass and its location on a high rocky outcropping make it a highly visible landmark.

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