By Ted Ross


At Five Corners, where Simcoe Street meets Toronto Street, there stands an imposing building. Facing west, the structure sits in the triangular lot formed by those two roads as they meet at Menzies Street. The house was built for John & Lizzie Chandler.

John Forsythe Chandler was born in Windsor, Nova Scotia. He was an accountant and bookkeeper for the Hudson's Bay Company in Victoria for twenty years, beginning in 1878.

Lizzie Denham Chandler was a schoolteacher who taught in a small building on Cedar Hill Crossroad. She was from St. John, New Brunswick, but had taken her teacher's training in England. She came back to Canada to teach. When her husband, John, took work in Victoria, she accompanied him, finding employment at Cedar Hill, and later, Girls Central School.

The Chandlers had a farm out on Wilkinson Road. John had the Simcoe Street house constructed in 1884, 131 years ago. It would be their Victoria residence.

The building is a large Victorian Arts & Crafts 1 1/2-storey house. It possesses a myriad of architectural features, fully catalogued by the Victoria Heritage Foundation, and available on-line. John had it built for his wife Lizzie, but they didn't ever make it their home. The reasons for this aren't clear but speculation ranges from disputes with local youth, stolen chickens, a smallpox scare to Lizzie's dislike of the back basement kitchen.

The Chandlers stayed on Wilkinson Road for a few years, then moved to a cottage behind the large house on Simcoe by 1900. John died in 1905, at 62. Lizzie and her two sons moved back out to Wilkinson Road. Lizzie passed away there, aged 63, in 1912.

The Daily Colonist, May 6, 1980, at the time of the passing of the elder son, Roy Dunsterville Chandler, reported, "In his later years, Chandler recalled his boyhood in James Bay and vividly remembered the stately clipper ships that used to put into Victoria...(Roy and Dunsterville Roads are both named after Chandler.)"

Among the earliest tenants of the house were George Phipps and his three children, living here c. 1891-95. By 1897 Frances Anne McConnan and her four sons were living in the dwelling.

In 1911 Robert Sirius and Margaret Moffitt bought the house and lived here until the late 1940s. Extensive renovation work was done in 1912, which altered some of the architectural characteristics of the building and added the classic front porch. In 1946 Robert and Margaret moved to 531 Toronto and operated 512 Simcoe as a rooming house. It is rumoured it was a brothel for visiting sailors in this period. Their son and daughter-in-law continued the rooming house operation until c.1960. The house has been a restaurant since the 1970s.


The bar and restaurant today is the Bent Mast, with Kate Thomson managing. The enterprise began in 1995, making this year their 20th anniversary. They have a delightful website which takes you through the history of the Chandler House, complete with a litany of all its ghosts!

There is speculation that spirits inhabit this old house. Rita Button reported in the April 2015 edition of The James Bay Beacon, "The most dramatic event Kate remembers is watching the ghost throw spoons in the was difficult convincing the kitchen staff to return to their work stations and to complete their work."

In "Our Story", the owners report, "There are supposedly at least three spirits residing in the house. A happy child who stays on the stairway...a cranky old man who has moved to the elderly, motherly woman...who gives the house its nurturing, compassionate and caring feeling."

The beautiful fireplaces and the elegant and broad staircase to the upper floor are maintained in their original condition. The outside yard has been brought in as part of the good weather serving area. Whether inside or out, the Bent Mast is a lovely spot for a drink and a nosh, and deserves a visit. When you get there, do keep an eye peeled for the ghosts! 


Fort Victoria Brick Project, "Chandler, John Forsythe and Lizzie Denham," 2005; Victoria Heritage Federation, "This Old House; Victoria's Heritage Neighbourhoods Volume Two James Bay", 2001; "This Old House, an Inventory of Residential Heritage", City of Victoria, Heritage Advisorty Committee, undated about 1979; Victoria Heritage Foundation,"Heritage Register - James Bay, 512 Simcoe Street (ex-39 Simcoe St.)", 2014;  The Daily Colonist, "Pioneer's Death Cuts Historic Link", May 6, 1980; The Bent Mast and Lounge, "Our Story", 2014; The James Bay Beacon, "The Bent Mast Celebrating 20 Years", Rita Button, April 2015.