"The terminal building at Victoria for the steamships, next to the Parliament Building... a handsome little building, as good as anything I have ever done."
-Francis Rattenbury, Architect
The stately Steamship Terminal building on Victoria's Inner Harbour was designed by architect Francis Rattenbury, with assistance from Percy James, and built in 1924.
Considered one of Rattenbury's best designs, the Steamship Terminal is a Beaux-Arts interpretation of classical architecture. It has similarities to other period buildings like Toronto's Union Station and the Sun Life Building in Montreal.
The building was acquired by the Provincial Capital Commission and is on Victoria's Registry of Historic Buildings.
In 2009, the PCC obtaining provincial and federal funding for major seismic and mechanical upgrades to the building. The project was completed in October 2011. Following an extensive process to re-tenant the building, Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA) was the successful applicant for head lease.
Victoria's harbour was the gateway to western Canada for huge numbers of visitors and immigrants arriving on steamships between 1887 and 1974. Canadian Pacific Steamships provided service from Victoria to Hong Kong, with stops in Honolulu, Manila, Shanghai, Kobe and Nagasaki. The ships carried passengers and mail.
A wooden CPR ticket office was built in 1905 on the site of the current Steamship Terminal. This structure was also designed by Francis Rattenbury.
Steamships of the "Princess" line carried passengers and freight on a triangle route between Victoria, Vancouver and Seattle. Passengers entering the Steamship Terminal became fewer in the 1960s as BC Ferries introduced service to Vancouver and competition grew from airlines.
In 1974, Canadian Pacific Steamships ended passenger service. The terminal was sold the following year to the government of British Columbia.