Pendray Inn & Tea House
By Ted Ross
One of the most stately mansions in Victoria, the Pendray House, was the site of a reception on October 19, 2017. The gathering was to introduce the new owner and the new name of the historic building. Henceforth it will be known as the Pendray Inn & Tea House. The charming new owner is Miao Yang.
In the early 1890s William Pendray purchased the land on which the large house sits. After acquiring the land he and his wife Amelia made a complete tour of the cities of the coast north from San Francisco to get ideas on the comforts of a home. By 1896 the plans had been finalized, and construction began. The Pendrays, with their family of four boys, had moved into a cabin located on the property in 1895. That cabin is known today as the 'Middle House.' They lived there while their beautiful Queen Anne style home was being constructed. When the family was able to move into the new palatial dwelling in 1897, it was a tremendous relief to all - especially Amelia - after the tight quarters of the cabin.
William Joseph Pendray was born in Cornwall, England in 1846. Hard-working, educated and industrious, he emigrated to California by way of the Isthmus of Panama when he was 22. From California, he made his way to Victoria and the Cariboo. A Cariboo mine netted him a fortune. He returned to England, met Amelia and invested in South African gold mines where he lost heavily.
Pendray returned to North America, ending up in Virginia City. There he was able to take part in the riches of the Comstock Lode; he remade his fortune. Returning to Victoria, he established a soap-making works in 1875 on Humboldt Street. Later he added British American Paints (Bapco) to the factory.
Amelia sailed into Esquimalt in 1877. She and William were married the day after she arrived. They lived in a cottage situated where the Crystal Garden is today. Next they lived in a house at the southwest corner of Gordon and Courtney where they commenced raising a family of four boys born between 1878 and 1891. 1895 saw the move to the cabin in James Bay, with occupation of the nearly completed mansion in 1897.
In 1906 the Humboldt Street works were sold to the CPR which was about to build the Empress Hotel on the reclaimed land of James Bay. A new factory for the soap works and Bapco Paints was constructed on property William had acquired at Laurel Point. The Jacob Sehl mansion had burnt to the ground on the site in 1894.
Tragedy stalked the Pendrays. In 1908 eldest son, Ernest C., aged 30, fell under the front wheel of a heavily loaded freight wagon and was killed instantly when it passed over his head and shoulder. In 1913 a falling water pipe from the new fire protection system at the plant crushed the head of William Pendray, aged 68, widowing Amelia and leaving his second son, J. Carl in charge of the company with Amelia. In 1932 youngest son, Roy, succumbed to pneumonia.
Carl, with his brother Herbert as vice-president, ran the paint company until his son Allan became president in 1948. Carl had divested the soap works in 1913 shortly after his father's death. Allan ran Bapco Paints until January 1, 1966 when he sold to CIL. In 1973 CIL moved their works to Vancouver. The paint factory site was transformed to a luxury hotel and condominiums.
Mrs. Pendray lived in the mansion until her death at 87 in May, 1937.
In 1939 the mansion was purchased by the Sisters Notre Dame des Anges, a Roman Catholic Missionary Sisterhood. In 1940 they opened the building as a hostel for Chinese women and called it Loretto Hall.
In 1970 the house became the Captain's Palace, an inn and restaurant operated by Florence and Bill Prior. The Priors did extensive restoration, uncovering all the coloured glass and painstakingly exposing the painted-over frescoes on room ceilings. In 1980 they held a Pendray family reunion with the house in its original condition.
The house next became the Gatsby Mansion, main house of the Huntington Hotel's Belleville Park Resort. Here, people were treated to a unique B&B experience in a historic Victorian mansion. Each room had its own distinct personality and charm.
It is today still in its original condition. The house kitchen is now commercially equipped to service the restaurant activities. The beautiful upstairs bedrooms are designed for comfortable occupancy by the guests.
It was all through the house that the reception was held to introduce the new owner and new name. Guests wandered and socialized throughout the main floor rooms where chairs and trays of hors d'ouvres gave a chance to sit and visit. A wine bar was quite busy. People climbed up the beautiful staircase to visit the rooms upstairs. Each room had a staff member in period costume there to tell you its story. Every one of the four rooms was interesting.
In the midst of activities, Town Crier, Alan Brown, stood on the stairs ringing his bell and crying, "Oyez, oyez," to gain the assembled's attention. He was dressed in full town crier regalia. Brown introduced general manager Mary Bea Moyle, dressed in a beautiful period gown, who welcomed the assembled and pronounced the new name, Pendray Inn & Tea House. She then went on to introduce new owner, Miao Yang, with great pomp and ceremony. We were encouraged to explore the rooms upstairs. Each guest carried a passport which had space for a stamp from the staff member in each room.
Sometime later our Town Crier mounted the stairs again, and when attention was focused he turned it over to Mary Bea for a prize-drawing. A lucky soul won a stay at this lovely house, complete with gourmet dining. All applauded the winner.
The reception had been most enjoyable. It introduced many folks to the next era for the Pendray house. What a delightful place it is with its 19th Century charm. Victoria will continue to love this marvellous residence.
Then and Now, "The Pendray Family," James Bay Beacon, September and October 2014; Huntingdon Manor, Pendray Inn & Tea House, 309 Bellville Street, Victoria, 2017; huntingdonmanor.com/gatsbymanion, Gatsby Hotel Victoria BC, 2015.