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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.     A history of the Songhees People and 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 [...]

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 [...]

VWCA Projects in the Community

2021202020192018201720162015 VWCA Childcare Expansion VWCA Childcare Expansion The VWCA has spent the past five years advocating for additional childcare spaces in the community. We are pleased to announce that an additional 32, 3-5 year, childcare spaces will be available in the community at our new Sherk St. location. This is thanks to the tireless efforts of the VWCA's Executive Director, Johanne Thompson, former Childcare Manager, Kate Thring, and the VWCA Board of Directors. Coming Together Vic West Coming Together Vic West In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the VWCA created a program to help connect neighbours and ensure the most vulnerable members of our community were able to receive support and supplies during the spring of 2020. The VWCA also compiled a local business list to help ensure that businesses that remained open or that had transitioned to online sales could still connect with the community. Emergency Childcare Services Emergency Childcare Services In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the VWCA provided childcare for essential workers in the community. This program lasted from April 2020 - August 2020. This program would not have been possible without the hard work of Beth Hume and Asha Willis. Vic West Community Live Series Vic West Community Live Series In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the VWCA began the "Vic West Community Live Series" to help connect with the community. Events hosted include, Craft Time with Asha (featuring the VWCA's own Asha Willis), Gardening Q& A (featuring the VWCA's own Louise Kelaher), How to Sew a Face Mask, Accupressure at Home, Cooking Together - With Children, and Conversations with City of Victoria Staff & Council. Free Little "Seed Libraries" Free Little "Seed Libraries" In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the VWCA Food Security Collective partnered with the Victoria Seed Library to distribute 500 packages of free vegetable seeds in Vic West's eight free little library boxes. Seed supplies were scarce so the FSC's Committee Chair, Patti Parkhouse, jumped into action to support Vic West food growers. A special thanks to Kristy for her help with this project. Get Growing Vic West Get Growing Vic West The VWCA was proud to be a part of The City of Victoria's Get Growing program. We provided over 3000 seedlings to community members over two distribution days. A huge thank you to Patti Parkhouse, Katie, and all the other volunteers who helped make these days possible. VWCA Anniversary Celebrations VWCA Anniversary Celebrations The VWCA celebrated a number of anniversaries in 2020. It was the 90th anniversary since the VWCA was first founded, 50 years since we became a modern society, and 10 years since we took over the Vic West Community Centre. To celebrate these huge milestones, the association presented the history of the Vic West Community. More details can be found on our website. A huge thank you to Justine Semmens, Veronique Plante, and all the other volunteers involved! With the help of Simon Trudeau, the VWCA also created a time capsule video interviewing long time residents of the community. It can be found here! Logo Redesign & Rebranding Project Logo Redesign & Rebranding Project In 2019 volunteers on the VWCA's rebranding committee help facilitate a logo redesign for the Community Association. The logo was unveiled at Vic West Fest. A huge thank you to Supriya Crocker, Sean Battistoni,  Julia Schenck, and Sindy Martinez. Vic West Fest 2019 Vic West Fest 2019 The VWCA expand its annual community celebration, Vic West Fest, to feature local businesses and artists as well as some amazing community performers.  A huge thank you to Veronique Plante, Paul Roots, Ben Fleet, and Everett Piper who helped make the event possible. Vic West Community Garage Sale Vic West Community Garage Sale The VWCA hosted its first-ever community garage sale. We had over 30 vendors and hundreds of members of the public attend. A huge thank you to Chris Bryson and Julie Bull for their coordination efforts! Program Registration Software Program Registration Software In September 2019, the VWCA launched its new online program registration software. Participants can now register for programs from the comfort of their homes. A huge thank you to Jamie Boyd and Chris Bryson for coordinating and managing this project! Out of School Care Expansion Out of School Care Expansion The VWCA started their official out-of-school care program in September 2019. In November 2019 we took over the Boys & Girls Club operations to offer childcare at both the Community Centre and Vic West Elementary. A huge thank you to Asha Willis and Johanne Thompson for their flexibility and dedication to kids in our community. Community Speakers Series Community Speakers Series The VWCA began hosting their community speakers series! We had one speaker present each month on a variety of different topics. A huge thank you to all of the speakers that have participated. VWCA Strategic Plan VWCA Strategic Plan In 2018 the VWCA adopted its 5-year strategic plan. Childcare Task Force Childcare Task Force In 2018, Vic West was announced as a pilot project for a new, provincially funded childcare building. The Vic West Community Association partnered with SD61 to create new spaces for kids in Vic West! Vic West owes a huge thanks to Mayor Lisa Helps for bringing the VWCA, SD61, and the Province of BC together through the mayor's taskforce on childcare. This would have been impossible without her help. We'd also like to give a huge thank you to Johanne Thompson, Kate Bryson, and all the other VWCA staff and volunteers who have helped with this project. Boulevard Gardens Boulevard Gardens In 2018, the Vic West Food Security Collective promoted a Citywide personal food growing survey through their volunteer list and various other contacts. The survey supports the City of Victoria Official Community Plan Section 17.3 - Assess neighbourhood food system features and needs as part of local area planning. Vic West was the neighbourhood with the most completed surveys and won $500 to install a boulevard garden. Community Centre Electronic Message Board Community Centre Electronic [...]

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