Victoria 1902


Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, is one of the beautiful cities of the Pacific Coast, and is situated in the southeast part of Vancouver Island, about an irregular indenture from the strait of Juar de Fuca on the south. The city is built on moderately undulating ground, and contains an area of about eight square miles. The nearest ainland is about 20 miles distant south to Port Angeles, Wash. The nearest Canadian mainland is about 65 miles northward by the main route of travel. Vancouver is 90 miles, San Francisco 750 miles and Tacoma 127 miles. Vancouver Island extends some 40 miles farther south than the 49h parallel, so Victoria faces U. S. territory to the south and east.

The Hudson's Bay Company established a trading post at Victoria early in the present century. In 1847 a fort was built. Five years later, the town was platted, and in 1862 it was incorporated. The first vessel arrived from England in 1845. For many years the Hudson Bay Company practically owned the entire Vancouver Island, and whatever industrial operations were engaged in were related in some manner to the Company's interests. This condition of affairs prevailed to a considerable extent till about the year 1858, when the Fraser River gold excitement drew throngs of miners to British Columbia. In a few months then Victoria developed into a flourishing city, though but few of the twenty-five or thirty thousand miners who spent the winter in the vicinity remained as permanent residents. Still its real growth began at that time, and it has had a gradual and healthy increase since.

No evidence of growth is more satisfactory than that supplied by the liberal expenditure of capital on business blocks, handsome private residences and church edifices.

The city's mercantile, manufacturing and shipping interests have been developed by the support which it commanded as the central trading point of the Province. Victoria has always beeen the chief trading point of the entire British possessions west of the Rocky Mountains, because it was so accessible by water, which was the great highway for all commerce.

Until the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway, Victoria was the only place of importance in British Columbia; now other places are springing up. Itcould not be expected, with a province so rich in coal, minerals, lumber and fish, that one city would long remain the only distributing point for so vast and rich a territory. It is the ocean gateway to the Province, and must forever command and receive a large portion of the interior and coast trade.

Until the completion of the northern transcontinental railways, the chief route of travel and traffic was by way of San Francisco or Portland, so it was no small advantage that Victoria was situated comparatively near these great commercial centres to the south. It is the oldest city in the province, and also the commercial metropolis and social centre. Shipping from all parts of the world enters the harbor, making it an important port of the Pacific seaboard.

No limit is known to the scope for industrial development on the Island, which is three hundred miles in length, northwest and southeast, an area of about twelve thousand miles, which territory may be considered as tributary to Victoria, and from the smaller islands of the adjoining waters and from the mainland much business flows to the capital city. The government is administered from here, and, if no other reason existed, that alone would have a tendency to draw business. The Victoria customs house shows by far the largest business of any port of the Province, and ranks as fifth port of the Dominion.

The main thoroughfares are clearly defined for long distances, but in all parts of the city are streets of varying widths, joining each other at every conceivable angle. Many streets are lined with shade trees. The streets and roads are all macadamized. An electric tramway is in operation on the principal streets. The city owns its own water works system, which cost upwards of $400,000, and returns a very handsome revenue on the investment. The commercial value is said to be $1,200,000, and is ample for the needs of the city. The street electric lighting plant is also owned and operated by the city. There is also a gas works plant. An efficient fire department with the latest improved equipment gives ample fire protection.

Victoria is a city to delight the heart of the tourist. In a drive over any of the excellent roads leading out from the city, they eye rests upon an enchanting landscape, handsome residences with well kept ground and gardens, and on every side evidence of wealth and culture.

It is a favorite winter resort, not only for the people of British Columbia, but for many south of the line, while in summer it is filled with tourists. No place on the Pacific coast offers more comfort, better climate or more beautiful scenery; and no city of its size in the Dominion has so many wealthy residents retired from active business.

Beacon Hill Park is the favorite resort. It occupies a large tract of ground in the eastern side of the city, being washed by the waters of the Straits of Juan de Fuca. A slight elevation, around which is a race track, gives the park its name. The park itself is a rare combination of the beauties of nature and artistic design. Three artificial lakes have been excavated, into the smaller one of which goldfish have been placed. A number of wild animals and birds are in cages or inclosures. Good roads and footpaths enable visitors to go comfortably all over the park. This is a great resort for all kinds of athletic games, and a favorite one with tourists, especially as the outlook is so grand, overlooking the broad strait, with the snow-capped Olympian Mountains plainly in view, on the mainland of Washington to the south, and the majestic peaks of the Cascades relieving the landscape to the southeast and east. From the higher points of the city can be enjoyed perhaps the finest landscape views of mountain, water and islands that are to be seen in any part of the world.

The north arm of the harbor, which forms "The Gorge," about a mile from the city, is a favorite resort for boating parties.

The city is amply provided with educational facilities, both public and private, and has a free public library. The churches are well represented.

The Royal Jubilee Hospital, built on the outskirts of the city, on a tract of 19 acres of land. There is also a private hospital.

Not alone as a growing City of promising prospects does it attain its full importance. The strategic point which it occupies as a national post of observation, supply and defence entitles it to the consideration it receives from Her Majesty's home government.

Esquimalt harbor, about three miles to the westward of Victoria, is the site of Her Majesty's Pacific Naval Station. It is probably the best one on the shores of Vancouver Island. It being a perfectly land-locked refuge, and easy of access for vessels of the deepest draught, war vessels are stationed there constantly, and it is general headquarters for Her Majesty's navy in the Pacific. Facilities are provided for doing all sort of repairing for ships. A dry dock, 450 feet long and 27 feet deep, with an entrance 55 feet wide, was constructed at a cost of $900,000. The arsenal contains large quantities of stores and ordnance supplies of all descriptions. The Royal Naval Hospital and cemetery are located there. Quite a town has been built up about the dry dock.

Though located on an island, Victoria does not suffer from the lack of outside communication, as that fact might imply. The harbor is generally a lively place, especially during the summer season, for then the ships that do the carrying trade between here and England generally arrive with large cargoes of merchandise of all kinds, for general distribution in the Province, and by them are returned those cargoes of salmon, lumber, and furs, principal exports of the Province and for which she is noted. The Alaskan steamers of the P. C. S. S. Co. make Victoria their clearing port north bound, and entry port south bound.

Victoria is a metropolitan city, and betrays it to the eye of the least practical observer. Its position is such that it will always be the distributing point for a large amount of territory, and its numerous banking corporations have given it a prestige as a financial centre that the commercial revolutions of the next few years will be powerless to disturb.

Source: Henderson's City of Victoria Directory, 9th edition, 1902, pp.794-797.