John Wright architect of Victorian homes in the gold rush

John Wright was one of the first architects in Victoria.

John Wright architect

John Wright architect (1830 – 1915)

Born in Scotland in 1830, Wright immigrated to Canada West (Ontario) in 1845.  Together with his brother-in-law George Sanders, they set up an architect firm, Wright & Sanders in San Francisco.

Wright moved to Victoria in 1859 and his first commission was to design the tower, iron staircase and lightkeeper’s house for Fisguard Lighthouse at nearby Esquimalt.

In the early 1860s, Victoria went through a building boom, and Wright was kept busy, designing homes for wealthy Victorians.

Wright’s residential designs in Victoria were a reflection of the ‘Picturesque’ style which was popular in California  throughout the 1860s. The Picturesque style was a combination of Gothic and Italian villa styles.

He designed a home in 1863 for Richard Carr which was made mostly of California redwood. The Richard Carr house (birthplace of artist Emily Carr) is the only pure example of the Italian Villa style, characterized by its curved window head and cornice bracketing. It is one of the outstanding residential structures surviving from the 1860s in western Canada.

Among his designs were the Jewish Synagogue on Blanshard Street (1863) and the James Bissett house at 138-140 Government Street (1861).

His last project was Angela College on Burdett Avenue, a girls’ collegiate school named for its benefactor Angela Burdett-Coutts. (Between 1860 and 1863 Coutts had sponsored three boatloads of single women who were transported to the colony to alleviate the shortage of females.)

The economy in Victoria began to wane in 1866 and Wright returned to San Francisco. He became the first president of the Pacific Coast Association of Architects in 1881.