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Vic West: It’s your community!

Victoria West History

Vic West History 2020 marks a couple of major anniversaries for the VWCA, including 90 years since the association was originally founded, 50 years since we became a registered society, and 10 years since we officially took over the community centre! To celebrate these milestones we want to showcase important, people, places, and changes that have helped make Vic West the vibrant and diverse community it is today. Vic West is steeped with local history and plays an important role in the development of Victoria as a whole. We’re so proud to be a part of this community and can’t wait to share what we’ve found with you!  This project would not be possible without the help of… City of Victoria The Victoria Heritage Foundation  City of Victoria Archives  BC Archives  E&N Division of the CHRA  Wise Victoria Mortgages  Victoria Harbour History  History of the Vic West Community Association By: Justine Semmens, VWCA President The area known to residents as Banfield Park has played a vital and foundational role in the development of the community of Victoria West. Known historically as ‘Bonze Beach,’ the waterfront and meadow leading up to Craigflower road has served as a focal point for the community virtually from the inception of permanent non-Indigenous settlement in the region. The community centre, for its part, and in one form or another, has been its anchor. The story of the Victoria West Community Association gets its start with Charles Frederick Banfield (1877-1959) and Dr. Melbourne Raynor. Both men were a part of the Vic West Men’s Brotherhood. Dr. Raynor wanted to provide a healthy place for Victoria West residents, including safe areas for children to play and assistance for the area’s elderly. Banfield, who was born in Saanich to British immigrants, built his home in Victoria West in 1909 (402 Skinner St). Employed first by the British Colonist (the ancestor of the Times Colonist newspaper) and then by the Crown as the King’s Printer, Banfield was Victoria West’s first resident to be elected as a city alderman. He was deeply involved with the community. In addition to founding the Gorge Vale golf course and helping to establish the Fernwood Athletic association, Banfield joined the Victoria West Men’s Brotherhood in 1925, becoming a pivotal member.  The Brotherhood was established around 1915 as a social club and veteran’s group. Meetings were initially held at the rented athletic hall on Catherine Street and later at Semple’s Concert Hall. The Brotherhood acquired Victoria West Park, preserved Gorge Park and saved the now public areas on Elk Lake from housing developments. The organization was also involved in school projects, picnics, and helping out the poor through charity concerts and other means. Committees, in the first two years, included the “House,” Parks and Playgrounds,” “Streets,” “Health and Morals,” and the “Athletic Committee” in charge of football, lacrosse, and baseball teams. In 1918, the “Production Committee” started Victoria’s first garden plots by leasing land on part of the old Songhees reserve.  They delivered food hampers from these gardens to the homes of Destitute families. These hampers also included bacon from the pigs raised by the “Piggery Committee.” The original clubhouse was located directly adjacent to the present-day Victoria West Community Centre building.  In 1930, the Brotherhood expanded to welcome women. It changed its name to the Victoria West Community Association, effectively establishing our community’s first full-fledged community centre, with the community association serving as one of its major projects. It has been an essential feature of Craigflower village ever since. Disrupted shortly in the 1940s as Victorians focused on the war effort, Banfield helped to revive the community association in 1947. In 1948 he successfully spearheaded a campaign to acquire the land around the community centre to turn into a park. The park was named in his honour. 521 Craigflower Road With the passage of time and economic hardship in the region, the community association faded briefly from Victoria West. The current association was formed under the societies act in 1970 as the Victoria West Community Development Association. In 1976, the VWCDA acquired federal funds to build a new, larger, more functional community centre. The present-day 8,000 square foot community centre was opened on April 9, 1978. It was run as a three-way venture between the City of Victoria, the VWCDA and the YMCA. The YMCA remained on the site for over thirty years until, in 2010, the community association assumed responsibility for the centre. Since then, the community centre has served as an important hub for community gatherings, youth outreach, early childhood education, adult fitness, and continuing education. In fact, in 2014, the Victoria West Community Centre was the busiest hub of activities sponsored by the City of Victoria. Doubtlessly, the community centre is the most prominent project of the Victoria West Community Association. Other projects include placemaking, food security, and community development. The Victoria Heritage Foundation also has more history of Vic West. History of the Songhees People in Vic West By: Justine Semmens, VWCA President The Coast Salish people and their ancestors have called the coastal regions of the Salish Sea home for more than five thousand years. The area is known today as Vic West resides on the traditional territories of the Lekwungen People, known today as the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations. These Nations share common cultural and linguistic heritage with other Northern Straits Salish speaking peoples such as the W̱SÁNEĆ,T’Sou-ke, Semiahoo, Samish, and Lummi First Nations.    As a result of the violent process of colonization, Lekwungen is now considered a ‘sleeping language.’ Thanks in large part to the leadership, teaching and advocacy of Elder Dr. Elmer Seniemten George, one of the last fluent speakers of Lekwungen, the Songhees and Esquimalt people have embarked on the journey to reawaken their language. Since long before European settlement and colonization in the Pacific Northwest, the Lekwungen people have governed themselves according to family or clan through a patrilineal kinship system, which means that inheritance and descent pass through the male line. […]

Walking Trails

Walking Trails Front Street to HarbourfrontVictoria West Walk #2 (as revised at December 23, 2003) A one-way walk beginning at the elementary school on Front Street and ending on the harbourfront at the Delta Ocean Pointe Resort. Front – Russell – Langford – Catherine – Songhees harbourfront – Delta Ocean Pointe Resort. Start at Victoria West Elementary School, 750 Front Street. Front ends at Russell Street, named for Robert John Russell, who arrived on the Norman Morison in 1853 and worked on the farms of the Puget’s Sound Agricultural Company (PSAC) in what is now Esquimalt. He saved his money and became a sizeable landholder, buying land when it was offered by PSAC’s parent Hudson’s Bay Company at a pound an acre. The School is situated above the low ground that drained across the Esquimalt School grounds and into the Gorge at Kinsmen Park. The area, known as Skinner’s Bog, would flood and freeze over in winter, making it a popular skating pond. Across from the School, on the north side of Langford between Russell and Mary, was the home of the Semples. The family were actors and opened a theater on their grounds called Semple’s Hall. Ascend Langford and turn right on Catherine. At the corner of Edward and Catherine was the old fire hall. The Anglican Church of St. Saviour’s, at Henry and Catherine, dates from 1891. Its parishioners included military personnel from Work Point Barracks. An older church built by the Methodists once stood on the east side of Catherine at Wilson, and the former St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church, built in 1890, occupied the southeast corner of Henry and Mary. Settlers would come across the harbour from James Bay by boat to attend services at St. Paul’s. Methodists and Presbyterians amalgamated in the 1920’s to form the United Church. The building to which they moved on Fullerton is now the Salvation Army High Point Community Church. Where Bay and Dundas join Catherine, there is an attractive sturdy stone building on the left (#225 Dundas). Now the Vic West Medical Centre, it was built in 1908 as the Victoria West Branch No. 2 of the Royal Bank of Canada. At the junction of Catherine and Esquimalt Road, the white brick building on the right dates from around 1909 and was originally part of the Silver Spring Brewery. Before that, the site had been occupied by the Fairall family’s soda shop and brewery. Continue across Esquimalt Road to Spinnakers’ Brew Pub. The small cove next to Spinnakers is what remains of Lime Bay. After Fort Victoria (then Fort Camosun) was established in 1843, lime for construction was brought in by barge and deposited here. The lime kiln itself was above where Kimta Road lies today. The bay was once much larger but was filled in stages from 1935 to the late 1950’s to allow development. Lime Point, between Lime Bay and Mud Bay to the east, was an aboriginal defensive site. It was likely protected by a trench dug across the closed end of the small peninsula between the bays. There is no record of the Songhees (Lekwungen) actually living here in historic times. One of the more prominent Songhees family groups lived in Cadboro Bay, and oral histories mention earlier villages in a number of bays around Victoria’s outer coast as well as in Esquimalt harbour and the Gorge narrows area. The defensive position at Lime Point would have protected parties that came here to fish or set out for clam, oyster, and mussel grounds around the inner harbour. After Fort Victoria was established and the Songhees had positioned themselves in Victoria West, they and other First Nations became part of the European wage economy. They worked to buy goods for their own consumption and for distribution at potlatches. In the early years of the Fort the Europeans were dependent on the Songhees for much of their food supply. In the mid-1800’s, when Fort Victoria itself was but a small community, the Songhees Reserve in Victoria West was a thriving commercial and social centre. There were 500 to 700 permanent residents and as many as 5,000 annual visitors who camped in the area at various times of the year. After 1862, with establishment of the City of Victoria, the aboriginal population became a minority of the total, but still played an important role in the local economy. Tragically, the year 1862 also brought smallpox, carried by a visitor from San Francisco. Dr. Helmcken had inoculated the Songhees, but itinerant First Nations from the far north – Haida, Tlingit, Tsimshian, Bella Bella – were unprotected and unknowingly infected their families. Historians estimate that up to a third of Vancouver Island’s First Nations population died in the epidemic. Proceed toward Victoria along the waterfront to a small plaza with a fountain flanked by two small statues. This was the location of Mud Bay, a favorite beach for visiting First Nations, especially after the 1870’s. Condominiums were built here in the early 1990’s. Continue to Songhees Point, where the two carved poles stand today. Across the harbour, beneath Victoria’s Wharf Street, one can make out a reinforced stone wall. This is part of the back wall of the Hudson’s Bay Company fur storage building. To the right is a handsome pink building – the Empire-style Malahat Building or Customs House (#1002 Wharf Street). Built in 1874-75, this is the oldest building west of Winnipeg belonging to the federal government. Mineral claims had to be filed here, and, when gold was discovered in the Klondike in 1897, it is said that the line of gold seekers at the Customs House stretched for miles. In 1859 the Royal Hospital was built on Songhees Point. It was used by both European and First Nations patients. In 1869 the hospital and the Women’s Infirmary, established on Pandora Street in 1864, were amalgamated into a new Royal Hospital at the Pandora Street location. The combined facility was moved yet again, in 1890, to the present [...]

COVID-19 & The Community

A Community Response to COVID-19 The Victoria West Community Centre is resuming some of our normal programming and activities with additional safety precautions in place.  Little Steps Preschool, Daycare, and School-Age Camp Programs, which provide essential childcare services to our community, continue to operate.  ** November 24th Update: In conjunction with Provincial Orders, all fitness programs and team sports have been cancelled until restrictions from the province are limited. If you have any questions, please contact our front office at (250)-590-8922. While we are taking steps to increase sanitization and disinfecting practices at our Centre, we are also asking that all visitors to the Centre: Continue practicing hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette. Refrain from attending VWCA programs or services or from entering the Community Centre if you are experiencing symptoms associated with a respiratory illness (cough, fever, muscle ache, fatigue). Follow the recommendations from the Provincial Health Officer to self-isolate for 14 days if you have returned from out-of-country travel. We encourage everyone to stay informed and take appropriate steps to maintain good health for themselves and others.  The BC Centre for Disease Control has excellent information on identifying and managing symptoms and reducing risk. Please know that we are monitoring the situation closely and in the event of any changes to our programming, we will post updates on our website and social media channels.   Childcare Families, Program Participants, and Rentals will be contacted directly should any changes occur. Support Local! WE LOVE OUR LOCAL BUSINESSES!!! Vic West is home to amazing businesses that bring so much to our community! During these tough times, many of them have adapted the way they operate and they need our support!! We’ve compiled a list of all of Vic West’s local businesses with contact details, opening hours, delivery options and any other important notes! Check out the link below and show your love for Vic West businesses!…/2PACX-1vQWitqQzKzG4peSYVX…/pubhtml   Other Community Resources   City of Victoria The City of Victoria website is a great resource for COVID-19 updates and community building measures. They will also be doing a daily Facebook livestream at 2:30pm. Tune in for important updates and information.   The List – By C0mmunity Micro Lending One of the best lists of community resouces for COVID-19 in Victoria. This is great for people who have questions or are looking for digital resources to learn more about receiving help during this time. Victoria BC Community Portal An approachable entry point for connecting to reliable information, online resources, local services, and remote activities which foster community resilience in the midst of COVID-19 Pandemic Community Resources (Victoria) Featuring food banks, free meals, Indigenous supports, youth supports, harm reduction, seniors support, transportation, and shelters. COVID-19 Coming Together Victoria (Facebook) This mutual-aid focused group connects people who want to provide tangible community support to people who make requests for assistance. (Check out the Vic West Pod) Safe Seniors, Strong Communities This is a program that matches seniors who need support with non-medical essentials, to volunteers in their community that are willing to help. Call 211 or visit this webpage for more info.  QT2SBIPOC Community Mutual Aid Intake Submit a request in this google form: Victoria QT2SBIPOC Community Mutual Aid Intake     Living Edge Neighbourhood Markets Some of the Living Edge Neighbourhood Markets are still on(free produce and groceries)  See their Facebook or website for updates. Mustard Seed Community food bank Our Place Providing the community with meals, toiletries, or outreach support   At a glance guide for accessing financial support – with links to application details. Federal Government Economic Response Plan  (Employment Insurance, Canada Emergency Response Benefit) Provincial Government Economic Response Plan  Specific info about Tax Relief for Province of BC here. Subscribe here for any Tax Benefit changes (Province of BC).  Accessing EI in BC Fact Sheet Google document about accessing financial support.  Contact TAPS for help with Employment Standards claims and EI matters: Ways to Help   Check in with Seniors!  Sign-up here to be matched with a senior. Provide donations to your local Foodbank or Community Shelter!  The Mustard Seed is currently looking for donations of food and financial donations. Click here to make a donation today! Our Place is in need of men’s clothing, warm layers, socks, underwear, and toiletries. Click here to make a donation today! Volunteer (and social distance)! Check out sites like Volunteer Victoria or Community Connect.

Guys Only Program:
Learn more about our youth program held at Rockheights Middle School.

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