Victoria West History

Vic West History

A brief history of the Vic West Community Association

Justine Semmens

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. Charles Frederick Banfield: The story of the Victoria West Community Association really gets its start with Charles Frederick Banfield (1877-1959). Banfield, who 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 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 1920 as a social club and veteran’s group. The original club house was located directly adjacent of the present-day Victoria West Community Centre building. In 1930, the Brotherhood expanded to welcome women and 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 principle projects. It has been an important 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 Hertitage Foundation also has more history of Vic West.

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