harbeckopener200px-CinematographeCameraSaturday, May 4, 1907 was a special day in the history of Victoria.

That was the day that William Harbeck produced a cinematograph of downtown Victoria.

Using a streetcar loaned by the British Columbia Electric Railway Company, he travelled down the streets, turning the hand crank of a camera fixed to the front of the car. He began at City Hall, travelled down Douglas Street, turned on to Yates and then on to Government, where he concluded his journey at the Post Office. He was so taken with the view of the Empress Hotel being built on the former mudflats that he took a panoramic view of the harbour – including the Empress Hotel site, the Legislative Buildings, and the CPR terminal. In the afternoon, he travelled by sea to the Point Ellice Bridge where he photographed the harbour and the sealing fleet. He then transferred to an electric launch and travelled up the Gorge Waterway as far as the Gorge Bridge. On the return trip he captured the Isle of the Dead and the saw mills, conveniently in full operation.

The Victoria Daily Colonist of May 5, 1907 documents the experience and notes that Mr. Harbeck would be travelling “along the line of the E & N to Nanaimo: stopping at Shawnigan Lake for photos of the “glittering sheet of water and the pretty little hotel.”

He then made his way to Vancouver where he shot 400 feet of film and planned to then travel up the CPR as far as Lytton. From this trip, only the footage of Victoria and Vancouver remains. It was found in the Australian archives a few years ago and brought back to Canada.

What is interesting about the video is the number of buildings that are shown along the route that remain today, over a century later. It is the purpose of this website to provide the viewer with information on the buildings which would have been on the route in 1858, and then in 1907, and what is now here today.


This Hallmark Heritage Society project was funded by the HBC Foundation and the BC150-Heritage Legacy Fund

Project manager and researcher: Helen Edwards

Principal Photography & Consultant: Ron Bukta, West Ventures Photography