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A History of Victoria

Updated on December 19, 2015

An overview of Victoria's history

At the end of the 1700th century, before the arrival of European sailors, the Victoria area sheltered several of the coast Salish communities, including Songhees.

But already in 1774, the British and the Spanish had launched the exploring the Northwest coast, with the arrival of Juan Perez and James Cook.

The exploration of Spanish sailors grew in large numbers, especially towards the Esquimalt Harbor at the west of Victoria, while the Victoria area and the Strait of Juan de Fuca would be discovered in 1790.

A young Canadian by the name of James Douglas joined the "Northwest Company" at the age of 16 years old, before later on joining "Hudson's Bay Company", in which he rose to the rank of high-grade officer for the company. During trades, His nickname was the "Scottish West Indian". He acceded to the post of Governor of the Vancouver Island colony from 1851 to 1864.

During the gold rush of the Fraser canyon, the mainland of British Columbia had the potential to turn into an American State. The British had appointed J.Douglas as first governor of the colony of British Columbia, in order to assert their authority over the area. Sir James Douglas would keep his position until his retirement in 1864.

In 1846 Hudson's Bay Company was built as a trading center in the village of Songhees at Camosun, (an indigenous word meaning "rush of water") and that eventually would carry the name of Fort Albert then the Fort Victoria.

With the creation of the colony, Victoria would be affected capital of the province until this day. As for the village, it will be later to the north of Esquimalt. James Douglas, after Richard Blanchard, will access to the position of Governor of the Province. Arthur Edward Kennedy, the third Governor will be for his part a remarkable personage in the development of the Province.

In 1858 the news of the discovery of gold in British Columbia had reached San Francisco. Victoria was assigned as the supply center for minors. The population rose from 300 to over 5000 literally within a few days. In 1862, Victoria went from a status. In 1865, Esquimalt became the seat of the Royal Navy in the North Pacific, and remains until now the naval base of the West Coast of Canada.

In 1866, when the island was politically annexed to the mainland, Victoria was designated capital of the new colony. The city also would keep this status until 1871, when British Columbia had joined the Canadian Confederation.

Before its ban in 1908, Victoria embodied one of the largest North American ports of the opium trade. During the second half of the 19th Century, it had served as a relay of distribution between Hong Kong and North America. Opium licenses were not legitimate until 1865 before its final ban.

In 1886, with the completion of the terminus of the Canadian Pacific Railway on Burrard Inlet, Victoria's privileged commercial position will be ceded to the City of Vancouver. The creation of Butchart Gardens in 1904 and the founding of the Empress Hotel in 1908 would support and promote Victoria and its image. Robert Dunsmuir, a coal-mining businessman on Vancouver Island built the Craigdarroch Castle in the Rockland area, near the residence of the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia.

A wave of housing construction and development had prospered before World War II, providing to Victoria a large Edwardian legacy. Shopping centers and residential buildings contributed to the originality of the city.

Growth in the Victoria area stabilized from the Second World War, at the same time that it sheltered two major universities. From the 1980s, the western suburbs of Colwood and Langford had been incorporated in the city as two new municipalities.

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