A Brief Biography
Victoria is Western Canada’s oldest city. The City began in 1843 as a Hudson Bay Company trading post, named in honour of Queen Victoria.
With the Fraser Valley gold rush in 1858, Victoria grew rapidly as the main port of entry to the Colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia. When the colonies combined, the City became the colonial capital and was established as the provincial capital when British Columbia joined the Canadian Confederation in 1871.
For most of the nineteenth century, Victoria remained the largest city in British Columbia and was the foremost in trade and commerce. However, with construction of the Transcontinental railway, Vancouver, as its terminus, emerged as the major west coast port and the largest city in British Columbia.
A 3 minute cinematograph taken on May 4,1907 in Victoria, B.C. The fellow who filmed it, William H. Harbeck, also filmed the aftermath of the San Francisco earthquake in 1906. Harbeck was a passenger on the Titanic but did not survive. The last bit of the film (at about the 2 minute part) shows (a glimpse of) the building of the Empress Hotel. Looks like a tram ride down Government Street as they end up at the Harbour.
In the twentieth century, Victoria evolved primarily as a city of government, retirement and tourism. The City remains, however, Canada’s western naval base and home to a major fishing fleet. Ship building and repair, as well as forest products and machine manufacturing industries, continue as significant sources of employment. Increasingly, the city is developing as a marine, forestry and agricultural research centre. The City is also noted for its fine educational institutions which include the University of Victoria, Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific (one of only six in the world operated by United World Colleges), and the recently opened Royal Roads University.
Today with an estimated regional population of 326,000, a moderate climate and scenic setting, Victoria has retained a very vital but comfortable quality of life. The City is proud of its British heritage, its fine homes and neighbourhoods, its historic and attractive downtown, the flowers and parks and, of course, the Inner Harbour with its vistas toward the famous Empress Hotel and the Parliament Buildings.
In a survey conducted by Conde Nast Traveler magazine, Victoria was judged to be one of the world’s best cities, topping the list in the category of environment and ambience. In a cross-Canada survey, Victoria residents registered the greatest satisfaction with their city. This satisfaction and regard for the quality of life and environment is perhaps the most notable feature of Victoria today, and the challenge in its future.
Greater Victoria, which includes the adjoining municipalities of Saanich, Oak Bay and Esquimalt, has a population of over 300,000; it enjoys an average winter day temperature of 5.5 degrees Celsius (42 degrees Fahrenheit), summer 16.1 degrees Celsius (61 degrees Fahrenheit), and annual rainfall of only 68.5 centimeters (27 inches) and an average of six hours bright sunshine daily throughout the year. The City is sea-girt on the south and east, and on the north and west is bounded by farm lands stretching back into the great forests of Vancouver Island.