1920′s – EARLY YEARS

Our beautiful building, at the corner of Catherine and Dundas streets in Vic West, was built in 1920 originally as a branch bank of the Royal Bank of Canada. The property was purchased for $2,800 and the construction of the building cost a total of $20,500. The manager occupied the upstairs quarters and heat was supplied by a coal furnace, attended to by the staff.

Catherine and Dundas streets before construction, circa 1919.

…and after Construction. Circa 1920.

1920′s – SILVER SPRINGS BREWERY

During the mid-1920s The branch catered to many prominent businesses of the time, including the Victoria Machinery Depot,  Ormond’s Biscuit Factory, and most notably the Silver Springs Brewery next door — with whom the Royal Bank had a, let’s say, mutually beneficial relationship. Their headquarters being so close together, and both businesses being involved in the trade of a much-desired commodity, the bank and the brewery installed a buzzer system within each of their main offices to notify the other in the case of a holdup.

Now it turns out that 1920s Victoria wasn’t home to that many burglars, as the buzzer system eventually took on a more casual purpose. According to reports, following three buzzes from the Silver Springs office, a bank employee would run across the street with a crate on his shoulder, slide down a conveniently-located coal chute, and be met with a replenishment of fresh Silver Springs Ale, on the house. We can only assume this was in exchange for especially diligent banking services

Silver Springs Brewery was was amalgamated into Coast Breweries in 1928, and eventually dissolved in 1959 when it was absorbed by Lucky Lager Breweries.

1981 – BAWLF COOPER & ASSOCIATES

After the Royal Bank, the building was converted into rental apartments until around 1981. At that time the property was purchased by Bawlf Cooper & Associates, an architecture and engineering firm. Bawlf Cooper performed extensive updates and renovations to the building, the scope of which prompted a letter of commendation from the mayor of the time, Peter Pollen. In 1988 the building was sold to Dr. Bryan Murray. Dr. Murray, along with Dr. Derek Carroll operated the Vic West Medical Clinic there until 2010.

A Period-style photoshoot of the building, Bawlf Cooper era, circa 1987

2008 – THE ROBERT A. WISE BUILDING

In 2008 Robert (Bob) and Valerie Wise purchased the Building from Dr. Murray. Initially they renovated the upper floor apartment which became their residence. Beginning in 2010 Wise Victoria Mortgages took over the office level of the building and undertook a total transformation of the space as well as exterior updating and restoration. Shortly after the office renovations began, Bob Wise passed away. When the project was completed, the building was dedicated in his memory.

The Building as it stands today.

Renos included extensive custom millwork, and removal of the almost ninety-year-old bank vault. During demolition we discovered that the concrete encasing the vault was reinforced with old railroad rails, which had been forged in Northwestern England and shipped to Canada in the late nineteenth century, living a full life under the wheels of the CNR before serving to protect the livelihood and investments of this city’s early residents. We’ve kept one of the tracks on display at our office to remind us of the true meaning of longevity and security.

We’re proud of our building’s status as a Vic West landmark, and don’t take lightly the notions of stability and wisdom that such a structure conveys. So next time you’re in the neighbourhood, drop by and we’ll be happy to show you around or answer any questions you may have. And though the old Silver Springs across the street is now an apartment complex, if you were to show up with a cold bottle or two, I’m sure we wouldn’t object.