Walking Trails

Walking Trails

Spinnakers to Barnard Park

Victoria West Walk #3 (as revised at Jan. 18, 2004) A one-way walk starting at Spinnakers’ Brew Pub and ending at the border with Esquimalt just west of Barnard Park. West Song Walkway – Mary – Russell – Rainbow Park – Robert – Seaforth – Maitland – West Song Walkway again – Barnard Park. Start at Spinnakers’ Brew Pub. In the nineteenth century, there were native fishing shacks where the Pub now stands. Spinnakers opened in 1984 in a refurbished and enlarged house built in 1918. The Pub is next to Lime Bay, where a lime kiln once operated to provide construction materials for the growing city. Lime Bay once extended almost to the Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway tracks but was partially filled in in the 1950’s. The name West Song Walkway is derived from “Songhees,” the native band who lived here from 1850 to 1911, and “West Bay,” where the walkway ends. Follow the walkway west to Mary Street, and turn up Mary. At the foot of the street a powder magazine was established in the late 1800’s. Number 211 Mary Street was the home of Elizabeth Bland and her husband. Her parents headed a wealthy family that owned Halfway House, an inn midway between Fort Victoria and Esquimalt Harbor. Halfway House was where the camels were quartered that were tested as beasts of burden in the Cariboo during gold rush days, 1858-1861. Across the street, at 222 Mary, is an attractive brick house built in 1890 by a Mr. Wilkinson, eldest son of the Anglican Bishop of Northern and Central Europe. The house was built of local brick. It has been restored, and the surrounding townhouses built to harmonize with it are one of Victoria’s better examples of preserving the old while building new. Farther up Mary Street on the left is Ormond’s Biscuit Factory. Originally it made crackers and biscuits, but then bread was added to the product list, and by 1901 the factory was baking 40,000 loaves a month. The factory was ahead of its time in making deliveries. Delivery customers included the Work Point Barracks, enabling Ormond’s to call themselves, “Bakers to Her Majesty’s Troops.” A polar expedition bought pilot biscuits here, and dog biscuits for their huskies. Though not officially designated, the factory is one of the few remaining industrial heritage buildings in Victoria. Go up to the railway tracks and turn left to get to Russell Street. The tracks belong to the Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway, constructed by James Dunsmuir to bring coal from his mid-Island mines to Esquimalt Harbor. In 1886 the line was extended to Russell Station, and later to its present downtown terminus at Store Street. Robert John Russell arrived in 1853 on the Norman Morison. As an employee of the Puget’s Sound Agricultural Company (PSAC), he bought land at 1 pound an acre and later sold parcels in what he called the Springfield Estate. Land prices rose during the Fraser River and Cariboo gold rushes but collapsed in 1864 when the gold boom proved short-lived. Speculators were left with land inventories that could not be sold until the economy improved. At the foot of Russell Street and extending to Robert Street is Rainbow Park. The Canadian Navy was established in 1910. Its first ship was HMCS Rainbow, built in England in 1891 and sailed from Portsmouth around Cape Horn to Victoria. The Rainbow was scrapped in Seattle in 1920. A rowing club was built here for the James Bay Athletic Association (JBAA) in 1938, and the building later became the home of the Rainbow Sea Cadets. A pillar from the old building is still visible in the rocks at the water’s edge. Modern-day Rainbow Estates were built here after the old JBAA building was torn down. Continue to Robert Street. At the end of the street is Coffin Island, a First Nations burial site. The east side of Robert Street was owned by the Muirheads; the west side, by the McBeaths. Number 223 Robert was the family home of James Muirhead, Jr., whose father owned a sawmill downtown close to Capitol Iron. The house was designed by Thomas Hooper. Restored by the present owner, it has the distinction of being the only privately-owned house in British Columbia designated a National Historic Site. Across the street, at number 230 Robert, is another Thomas Hooper design. Among its interesting features is a bay window angled to gain a water view. The view is now obscured by trees. The house was built for Duncan and Ursula McBeath, but Ursula did not like it. The couple moved up the street to another house, at the corner of Seaforth, but it was not the one that stands there now. When their house came down in 1978, the interesting house that now occupies the site was moved from the corner of Seaforth and Maitland one block away. This house, called Huntingdon Cottage, dates from 1888. In 1907 it was sold to Duncan and Eliza Stewart, who influenced a change of street names in the neighbourhood. William Street became Seaforth, and James Street became Maitland. Duncan Stewart was from Seaforth, Ontario, and Eliza was from Huntingdon, Quebec (which is near Maitland, Ontario). Number 614 Seaforth is built in the bungalow style. The north-facing verandah is reminiscent of India, where this orientation offered the most protection from the sun. The Princess Patricia apartments stand at the junction of Seaforth and Maitland. They occupy the site of the former home of Captain James Troup, who managed the BC Coast Steamship Service from 1901. From here he could watch his ships enter and exit the harbor. It was he who initiated the practice of naming the fleet for princesses. Descend steps at the foot of Maitland to a gazebo on the West Song Walkway. Henry Simpson once owned the land where the gazebo stands. He came over on the Norman Morison in 1853 with John Russell. A baker, Simpson made his home on the Constance Cove Farm where […]

Front Street to Harbourfront

Victoria 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 Royal Jubilee Hospital site. Meanwhile, […]

Victoria West Community Centre to Goose Loop

Victoria West Walk #1 (as revised at Jan. 18, 2004) A loop trip. Craigflower – Coventry – Selkirk – Banfield Park – Galloping Goose to Bay Street Bridge – retrace – Raynor to Craigflower. Start at the Victoria West Community Centre at 521 Craigflower Road. The building originally housed the Victoria Men’s Brotherhood, established after World War I as a social and veterans’ group. After women got the vote in 1919, the organization changed its name to Victoria Brotherhood and then, in the 1930’s, to the Victoria West Community Association. Craigflower Road led to Craigflower Farm, named by Kenneth McKenzie after the Scottish estate of Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) governor Andrew Colvile. The farm was one of four established by the Puget’s Sound Agricultural Company (PSAC) in what is today Esquimalt to provision Fort Victoria, other HBC posts, and the Russian America Company in Alaska. Walk west on Craigflower to Coventry, and turn right. At the corner, 701 Craigflower, is a blue wood frame house undergoing restoration. This was the gate house of “Burleith,” the stately mansion built by James Dunsmuir around 1900. Burleith took its name from the mining town in Ayrshire, Scotland, where James’s father Robert had been born. Walk to the end of Coventry at Selkirk Avenue, and look to the left to where Selkirk bends left. The bend was the approximate site of Burleith, of which no trace remains except for pieces of stone wall that have since been largely moved to other properties. Soon after Dunsmuir became Lieutenant Governor in 1906 and moved to Government House, the Burleith property was subdivided. Many period houses on nearby streets such as Northcott and Arm were built at that time. Dunsmuir set to work on a still grander estate at Hatley Castle and never returned to Burleith. The property fell into disrepair and burned to the ground in 1931. Turn right on Selkirk and enter Banfield Park. It is named for city alderman Charles Banfield, the Queen’s Printer. The park was created in the 1950’s but had to be reestablished in 1969 after it was found that certain legal formalities had been omitted. If the oversight had not been corrected, the treed slopes below the head of Catherine Street would probably have been converted to affordable housing. Walk down to Victoria Arm, part of the Gorge waterway. Directly across the water on Chapman Point is Gorge Road Hospital. To make way for the hospital, a stately mansion, Ashnola, was pulled down. Ashnola had been built around 1890 by Captain Northing Pinckney Snowden, husband of Emily Ellen Dunsmuir. Emily Ellen was James’s sister and one of Robert and Joan Dunsmuir’s seven daughters. Walk eastward along the water toward a prominent trestle. The cove below the children’s playground is known as Bond’s Beach, after William Bond, who owned a house at the site. Using discarded tugboat ropes attached to the old Garry Oak tree, children would swing out over the water. Rounding the corner beyond the green pipe railing, look upward to the right for glimpses of an attractive period mansion, “Roslyn.” The mansion is in the Queen Anne style and was built around 1890 for Andrew Gray, wealthy owner of an iron works. It became derelict but was acquired and restored by the present owner. His action marked the beginning of the Catherine Street revival, which has seen many other fine homes in the area refurbished. Leave Banfield Park and pause at the trestle. The trestle was built in 1918 for the Canadian Northern Railroad (later Canadian National). Disused for many years, it was recently incorporated into an important recreational trail network. Here the Banfield Park trail meets the Galloping Goose Trail, which runs from downtown Victoria along the upper harbour and across the trestle into the Burnside-Gorge community and then Saanich. There it forks, one branch continuing northward to join the Lochside trail system and the other going westward beyond Sooke to Leechtown. At the far end of the trestle and to the right is the Selkirk Waterfront development. This includes the Gorge Rowing Club, until recently the home of Canada’s Olympic rowers. The Club sits on the site of an old sawmill that was taken down in 1983. The widening of the Gorge – here called Selkirk Water – made this a convenient site for log booms. Midway across the trestle on the right is a small island called Halkett Island. This was one of several small islands around Victoria on which the First Nations people practiced above-ground burial in wooden coffins. Pranksters or vandals set fire to Halkett Island in the 1860’s. Do not cross the trestle, but instead follow “the Goose” toward downtown Victoria and past the new Railyards residential development. On the far side of Selkirk Water, next to the rowing club, is “Mount Budget,” a pile of old vehicles being reduced to scrap by the former Budget Steel (now Pacific Recycling). Next, in a clump of trees, is Point Ellice House, built in 1862 and later bought by Gold Rush magistrate and commissioner Peter O’Reilly. The house was home to three generations of O’Reilly’s before being sold to the BC Government in 1974 and designated a heritage site. Beyond Point Ellice House is the Bay Street Bridge. The modern steel and concrete span replaced the wooden trestle bridge that collapsed in May, 1896, with the loss of 55 lives. The tragedy, North America’s worst-ever streetcar disaster, practically bankrupted the city and stultified development for many years. Retrace steps northward but turn left at the trestle and ascend the ramp walkway to the junction of Arthur Currie Lane, Alston Street, and Raynor. In 1850 James Douglas started to negotiate treaties with the First Nations around Victoria. The part of Victoria West closest to the inner harbor was set aside as the Songhees Indian Reserve. Alston Street – formerly called Frederick Street but renamed for an Indian Affairs commissioner – was the boundary between the reserve and the subdivided part of Victoria West. Ascend […]

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