In 1842, James Douglas of the Hudson’s Bay Company selected the port of Camosack (the harbor where Victoria now stands) as a new fur-trade post – eventually to replace Fort Vancouver as the company’s Pacific headquarters and to bolster the British claim to Vancouver island. It was obvious that the international boundary would be set at the 49th parallel and Fort Vancouver would be firmly in United States territory.
Charles Ross noted in his private correspondence:
“The Fort is a quadrangle of 330 by 300ft. The buildings on for the present to be eight in number, exclusion of bastions – and there dimensions – 60 by 40 by 30 feet. Posts and Pavilion roofs of these edifies we have already thoroughly completed three, and two more (main and officers house) are up but as yet unprovided with covering or inside work.
One octangular Bastion of three stories was built. In the farming line we have not as yet done much, there are about three acres broken up and prepared for the plough. The soil appears excellent being composed of decayed vegetable mould with a strong clayey bottom, it is however a good deal growth of fern.The landscape is beautiful and strongly reminds one of some of the noble domains at home – water alone being (wanting?)to complete the picture. The climate is perhaps too fine, of which you may judge, when I tell you that from June to November we had scarcely anything else thou bright sunny days.”
On 10 June 1843, it was officially christened Fort Victoria after Queen Victoria. The crown colony of Vancouver Island was also established in 1849 and Richard Blanshard, who became its first governor in 1850, resided at Fort Victoria. In 1847 the fort walls were extended to included a post office, stable, and another warehouse. The town site was surveyed adjacent to the fort in 1851-52.
With the discovery of gold on the British Columbia mainland in 1858, Victoria became the port, supply base, and outfitting centre for miners on their way to the gold fields, mushrooming from a population of 300 to over 5,000 literally within a few days. One morning in July, some 2,800 men arrived from San Francisco en route to the gold rush, and that year 30,000 people passed through Victoria on their way to the Fraser River goldfields. Victoria also became the port, supply base, and outfitting center for miners on their way to the Caribou gold fields.
As the town of Victoria grew – it was incorporated in 1862 – the fort was slowly dismantled to make way for the expanding town. In 1864 the last part of the old fort was demolished, the lots were auctioned off, and brick commercial buildings went up.
The north bastion of the fort was at the corner of what is now Bastion Square and Government Street and the south bastion at Fort and Government Streets. The original outline of the fort is marked on Government Street by a row of bricks containing names of Victoria pioneers.
Of the buildings seen on the Harbeck video, there are several that are built on the old fort site.
1108 Government Street, the current location of Munro’s books was originally part of Fort Victoria and is almost exactly between the chief factor’s residence and the men’s quarters.
The Promis Block at 1006-1010 Government Street occupies what was once the southeast corner of the original Fort Victoria.
The Hamley Building, named after its original owner, Wymond Hamley – Collector of Customs for British Columbia from 1864-1871, was constructed on the site of the old Fort Victoria Garden.
The site on which the bank is located at 1022 Government Street is where the former bachelor’s quarters of Fort Victoria stood.
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