Victoria's Inner Harbour

(Reuben Krabbe photo)


Culture & History

The spirit of the Lekwammen people pervades the history of Victoria.

When European ships sailed through the Georgia and Juan de Fuca Straits, there were 10 Lekwammen villages along the shores of what is now Greater Victoria.

British agent James Douglas and his men came upon these shores, searching the Pacific coast for new Hudson's Bay Company headquarters. Welcomed by the Lekwammen as new trading partners, Douglas and his entourage set up a trading post on these lands in 1842.

Fort Victoria was built in 1843 in the area known today as Old Town, now the heart of Victoria's downtown. Thousands of Aboriginal people converged on BC's coast to trade with the European arrivals. Miners made their way to the region in the late 1800s, setting the stage for a dramatic population shift.

In 1858, gold was discovered on the Fraser River. Miners from around the world came to Victoria, a well-situated seaport and major outfitting centre for the mainland goldfields. Economic activity shifted from trade to mercantilism. Fort Victoria became a rich, populous city with a dwindling Aboriginal population.

The architectural face of the city changed dramatically. Around the site of the original fort, buildings sprang up. Visitors who walk the streets of Old Town today can see an impressive concentration of historical architecture.

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, Victoria became the busiest seaport north of San Francisco.

In 1866, Vancouver Island and British Columbia united to form a single colony; two years later, the city of Victoria was declared its capital. In 1871, British Columbia became the sixth province of the Dominion of Canada.

The current Parliament Buildings were constructed between 1893 and 1897 on the city's Inner Harbour. Cresting the harbour, the Canadian Pacific Railway's grand Empress Hotel (now the Fairmont Empress Hotel) was constructed in 1908. With construction of the renowned Royal BC Museum nearby, the scenic Inner Harbour has become the city's symbolic centre.