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About Wellburn’s Food Market

Architecture:

This imposing block presides over the important intersection of Pandora and Cook, though the footprint of the structure is actually L-shaped. The finish of white glazed bricks gives a commercial “feel” to the structure, and the building has survived for nearly a century serving its original role of stores, with apartments above. Designed by a highly successful local architect, William Ridgway Wilson, it is low and wide with a flat roof, tied together by a low balustrade and modillions on top and a dentilled stringcourse between the floors. But the horizontal effect is moderated by a series of asymmetrical panels (big stores/small stores, originally) divided by two-storey pilasters emphasized by hoods with segmental arches.

On the upper floor, the windows are clustered in shallow, recessed octagonal bays, with one bay wrapping round the dominant corner. Original roll-up awnings have been replaced with fixed units, but the original corner doorway has been retained. At first sight, the two main façades look the same, but a charming lunette window at the corner adds character, with an exaggerated mock stone surround and leaded glass. The rear of the building is plain red brick, more visible since the elimination of tiny Opal St, which ran west where the parking lot and park now sit. Several matching red brick outbuildings are attached. The building has survived for over a century serving its original tole of stores with apartments above.

Current Occupants

In 1914, Matthew Wellburn started the business at Cook and Pandora in a building designed in 1911 by the architect W. Ridgeway Wilson.

There was the store, a bank, bakery and pharmacy on the main floor plus residences above  known as Parkway Apartments.

The business was managed by Matthew’s son George until the end of the 1960s. Matthew died in 1969 at the age of 98. Jim Hall ran the business until the mid-1970s when he sold it to Francis Ko and Harvey Cheung. The Lum Family purchased the business in 1983 and operate it today.

There was a major renovation undertaken in 1995. The entire bottom floor is now our Wellburn’s Food Market, except for about 300 square feet which is occupied by the Cook Street Barber.

Original Occupants:

This structure was built in 1911 as shops and an apartment complex for Victoria businessman David R. Ker

Other Occupants:

Matthew Wellburn was a grocer for his entire working life; he helped in the family grocery store until just three months before his death and still attended church at St. John the Divine. Wellburn was quoted as saying that he came to Vancouver Island for a visit in 1910 “and never got over it.” In 1911 he returned to England to bring his wife Geraldine and five children here. Their first home was on Grant St and the children attended the new Victoria High School. Matthew first worked for another grocer but c.1912 he set up his own shop at Camosun and Pandora (extant).

Two years later he moved to the Cook and Pandora premises, where two previous grocers had failed. Wellburn’s Cash Grocery Store grew steadily, taking over a bakery, a bank, a pharmacy and other businesses until it finally became a supermarket. It was managed by Matthew’s son George by the end of the 1960s. Several of the Wellburn children were amongst Victoria’s top swimmers in the 1920s, most notably son Tom who established a new Canadian record racing against Johnny Weismuller at the newly opened Crystal Garden pool in 1925. Eldest Wellburn son Gerry went on to establish the BC Forest Museum north of Duncan in 1965.*

Matthew Wellburn died in 1969 at 98. Now known simply as Wellburn’s Market, it is still very much a going concern, as are the Parkway Apartments on the second floor.

(1521/1524 Shasta Pl, Rockland). Little is known about the first occupants except for George Alfred Richardson (1025-27 Moss St, Rockland) who was born in Victoria in 1867 and was a drygoods merchant. The residential floor is known as Parkway Apartments; there were eight tenants by 1917 and 11 by 1921.

Source: Wellburn’s Food Market

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