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William James Rennie (1869-1940) was a member of Victoria-Columbia Lodge No. 1 in Victoria.
He owned the Imperial Bakery in partnership with John Terrance Taylor (1865-1934). The building William Rennie and John Taylor had built for their Imperial Bakery business in 1911 is still standing at 1284 Gladstone Avenue-2000-2004 Fernwood Road, on the north west corner of Fernwood Road and Gladstone Avenue.
1284 Gladstone Avenue-2000-2004 Fernwood Road was built in 1911 by the Parfitt Brothers contracting firm, whose principals, Aaron Parfitt, Mark Parfitt and Albert Parfitt, were also members of Masonic Lodges in Victoria as well as neighbours of William Rennie in Victoria’s Fernwood neighbourhood.
Here are links to additional information on 1284 Gladstone Avenue/2000-2004 Fernwood Road:
- Victoria Heritage Foundation
- City of Victoria Archives photo M00652 – circa 1920, showing Imperial Bakery staff in front of what is now the Belfry Theatre.
- City of Victoria Archives photo M00653 – circa 1920, showing Imperial Bakery staff in front of what is now 1284 Gladstone Avenue-2000-2004 Fernwood Road, which was built by Rennie and Taylor for the Imperial Bakery.
- City of Victoria Archives photo M06635 – 1929
Here are some biographical detail on William James Rennie from the Victoria Heritage Foundation:
“William James Rennie (b. Omemee, ON, 1869-1940) and John Terrace Taylor (b. Dysart, Fyfeshire, SCT, 1865-1934) had their neighbours, the Parfitt Brothers (1921-23 Fernwood Rd), construct this two-storey brick block for them and their expanded bakery business. They added more ovens on the ground floor, and installed an elevator to connect the baking floor with the mixing room. Rennie and Taylor lived in apartment 1294 above the bakery, Rennie with his family and Taylor as a quiet bachelor; the number was changed to 1286 in 1925. From 1926-28 Taylor lived on his own in 1298, then moved to 2004 Fernwood.
Rennie and Taylor formed their partnership c.1895 and opened a store and bakeshop at 20 Chambers St. They purchased this property at the NW corner of Fernwood and Gladstone in 1903. There were at that time about six houses on the land in which they worked and lived. Their Imperial Bakery was the first in the City to establish a bread delivery system by automobile. By 1907 they had four Ford autos to assist their four horsedrawn wagons in delivering their famous Butternut bread, and their cakes, pastries, pies, buns and rolls.
Rennie, president of the firm, came to BC in 1890. In 1905 he married Emily Henrietta Cox (b. Victoria, 1882-1956). [Note: Her father John Cox arrived in 1859 on the Thames City as a sapper with the Royal Engineers; her mother Minnie Gillan arrived in 1862 on the bride ship Tynemouth.] Rennie was well known in Canada for his champion pacing and trotting horses, and the Imperial Bakery’s delivery wagons and teams were a familiar sight on City streets and in May 24th parades.
Taylor, the firm’s secretary, came to Victoria in 1891, working first for M.R. Smith’s Biscuit Factory in James Bay. He was a prominent member of First Presbyterian, then First United Church, and sponsored a number of sports teams. He was also a member of the Hundred Per Cent Club, later the Capital City Commercial Club. Rennie’s daughter Victoria became secretary of the company after Taylor’s death in 1934.”
Here are some local newspaper reports of William James Rennie’s death and funeral:
“”RENNIE- On Sunday, September 15 , at the Royal Jubilee Hospital, William James Rennie, aged seventy years, of 1286 Gladstone Avenue, a pioneer baker of this city, having been president and one of the founders of the firm of Rennie & Taylor, and later manager of Weston’s Bakers, Victoria. The late Mr. Rennie had been born in Ontario and had been a resident of Victoria for the past fifty years. He leaves to mourn his loss his widow, at home, and two daughters, Miss Gladys Rennie, at home, and Mrs. John Grimmond, of 2310 Lee Avenue, Victoria; a daughter-in-law, Anne and grandson Terry, also of this city; also two sisters, Mrs. A. Beamish and Mrs. A. Clement, both of this city. He was a member of Victoria-Columbia Lodge No. 1, A.F.& A.M. and also of the Capitol City Commercial Club.
The remains are resting at Mccall Bros. Funeral Home and the funeral will take place on Wednesday afternoon at 3 o’clock from First United Church, Rev. Hugh A. Macleod, assisted by Rev. W.G. Wilson, D.D., will conduct the service, after which interment will be made in the family plot in Royal Oak Burial Park.”
(Source: Daily Colonist, 18 September 1940, page 12)
“FUNERAL RITES WELL ATTENDED
Large Congregation at Services Held For William James Rennie
Funeral services were held yesterday for William James Rennie, pioneer baker of this city, in First United Church, a large number of friends and business associates of the deceased occupying the church auditorium.
Rev. Hugh MacLeod conducted the service, assisted by Rev. Dr. W.G. Wilson; the hymns, Lead Kindly Light and Abide With Me, being sung. A profusion of beautiful floral tributes were banked behind the casket in front of the pulpit.
Dr. Wilson paid tribute to the deceased, whose reputation for integrity, built up through many years, was something all might envy, he declared. He spoke of Mr. Rennie outstanding characteristic of generosity to those less fortunate and said that these things should be an inspiration to all.
Honorary pallbearers included T. Atkinson, D.W. Hanbury, T.W, Gillingham, J. Crook, F.A. Graham and Ross Grant, Winnipeg, and F.W. St. Lawrence, Toronto, vice president of Weston’s Bakeries, who flew here to attend the funeral.
Active bearers were G. A Cameron, W. P. Marchant, F. J. Popham, R. Jenkin, W.E. Cook, J.R. Saunders, J. Jewkes and A.E. Cowan, Vancouver, all members of the Masonic craft.
Interment took place at the family plot at Royal Oak Burial Park, where members of the Victoria-Colombia Lodge No. 1 attended, and the last rites were conducted by Worshipful brother J.T. Marshall. McCall Brothers had charge of funeral arrangements.”
(Source: Daily Colonist, 19 September 1940, page 5)
William James Rennie is buried in the Royal Oak Burial Park. We will add a photo of his grave in the near future.
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