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History of the Robert Porter House
649 Superior Street

Written by Geoffrey Castle Nov 24, 1984

Maclure Suite B$B EleganceThe Robert Porter House on Superior Street, adjacent to South Park School, has a two fold significance. Not only is it associated with one of Victoria's well-known pioneer families, but it is a landmark design in the career of architect Samuel Maclure.

Robert John Porter junior, for whom the house was built in 1896 was keenly interested in all aspects of agriculture. He was a public-spirited citizen and served as a mayor to Victoria, oversaw the completion of the Sooke waterworks, was on the board of directors of the Royal Jubilee Hospital
and was a director of the British Columbia Agricultural Association.

Robert J. Porter senior came to Victoria aboard thee barque Tory in 1851 when he was only 16 years old. He was articles to the Hudson's bay Company for five years, and became a brickmaker in the company's old yard near the northerly edge of Beacon Hill Park. On Sept 8, 1857, he purchased a farm on Burnside Road on which was built a log cabin. Porter became a successful butcher and when he sold his business to P. Burns and
Company in 1909, he had stores in Vancouver as well as Victoria.

Samuel Maclure, reputedly the first white child born in New Westminter, was a former Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway telegrapher. He studied architecture part time and later had practices in Victoria and Vancouver. The best of his 40 year professional years coincided with the period of economic expansion prior to the First World War.

The Porter House is one of Maclure's earliest surviving and virtually original domestic efforts. It contrasts with his later work such as Hatley Park. The half timbering for which his designs became notes is apparent in this pleasing blend of the classical and the colonial. Two front bay windows add symmetry to the structure with its central hall featuring a distinctive skylight. When the house was built there were few others in the area. A horse was kept as well as a Shetland pony for the children.

Robert Porter junior was born 1867, the year of Canada's confederation. When he died in 1922 he left a young widow and six children. Victoria showed its respect for this native son when many flags flew at half-mast. He was buried in Ross Bay Cemetery.

The rural surroundings of this residence at 649 Superior are no more,…a motel and nursing home flank the property.

Geoffrey Castle is a council member of the Victoria section of the B.C. Historical Foundation
Photo Credit: Barry F. King

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Robert Porter House B&B
649 Superior Street
Victoria, BC
V8V 1V1