Detail on brick path, Bastion Square
Runs between Government, Wharf, Yates and Fort Streets
Today Bastion Square is filled with heritage buildings, an artisans’ market and lots of tourists. But back in the mid-1800s it was the site of HBC’s Fort Victoria. James Douglas selected the site in 1842, and construction on the fort began in 1843. Fort Victoria replaced Fort Vancouver as HBC’s Pacific headquarters in 1849, after the Oregon Treaty set the new international boundary. Despite this early prominence, the fort’s reign was quite short. The township of Victoria had been surveyed adjacent to the fort in 1851-52. During the Fraser gold rush of 1858, Victoria’s population soared. The city was growing and the land occupied by the fort was needed for expansion. The fort was completely demolished by 1864.
The original fort was quite substantial: a 300 foot square surrounded by an 18 foot stockade. A brick path runs along Government and Fort Streets, and marks where the stockade used to be. Bricks bear the names of key HBC and local figures, and pay homage to the old Fort. The path allows one to get a sense of the Fort in its heyday. On Wharf Street, at Bastion Square, a café terrace has the hexagonal shape of a watchtower and sits roughly where the bastion originally stood. Only one actual piece of evidence of the Fort’s existence remains: the mooring rings embedded in rock just off Wharf Street, indicating where HBC’s supply ships used to dock. A Historic Sites of Canada plaque describes the importance of these last remaining relics!
Craigflower Manor, 2008. Copyright TLC/Deborah Hudson
The Manor is in the municipality of View Royal with entrance to the site at 1801 Admirals Road. The Schoolhouse is across the border in the District of Saanich, at 2765 Admirals Rd.
Craigflower Farm was established by HBC in 1853, as part of its obligation to help settle Vancouver Island. It was managed by HBC's subsidiary, the Puget Sound Agricultural Company and Kenneth McKenzie was responsible for its creation. He arrived in Victoria with eighteen farm hands and their families in 1853 and got straight to work clearing the land and building accommodations. On May 1st, 1856, McKenzie and his family moved into what became known as Craigflower Manor, a Georgian manor farmhouse modelled after his ancestral home in Scotland. During the 1850s and 1860s the farm site continued to grow. There were 20 other homes as well as a saw mill, flour mill, blacksmith’s shop, brick kiln, slaughterhouse, general store and school. Many of the original farmhands chose not to renew their contracts after 1857, and the McKenzies only stayed on at Craigflower until 1866. Although the farm did not succeed and the school was closed in 1911, the history of these important sites was not lost. The school house reopened as a museum in 1931 and eventually both it and the house were acquired by the province. Both Craigflower Manor and Craigflower Schoolhouse were declared National Historic Sites in 1967. The Manor and the Schoolhouse are currently operated on behalf of the province by TLC - The Land Conservancy of British Columbia.
Helmcken House, 1954
Royal BC Museum, 675 Belleville Street
Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken (1824-1920) began his career with HBC in 1847 as ship's surgeon on the Prince Rupert. Helmcken was later one of 80 immigrants recruited to Fort Victoria, where he arrived in 1850. In December of 1852, Helmcken married Cecilia Douglas, the daughter of HBC Chief Factor and colony Governor, James Douglas. The new couple built a house on land given to them by her father, right next to the Douglas family home. Originally a three room log house, it was expanded over the years as the size of their family grew. The Helmckens had seven children in total, of whom only four survived childhood. The house still stands on its original site and is the oldest house in British Columbia open to the public. Helmcken House opened as a museum in 1941, becoming part of the Royal BC Museum Corporation in 2003.
Old HBC Department Store
1701 Douglas Street
The original HBC department store in Victoria is located on Douglas at Fisgard Street, in what once was the heart of downtown Victoria. A Georgian style structure, it was designed by the Toronto architectural firm, Burke, Horwood and White, which designed Hbc stores in Calgary and Vancouver as well as the Robert Simpson store in Toronto. Construction began in 1913, but lapsed for nearly a decade due to economic depression and a labour shortage caused by WWI. The store officially opened on Sept.19, 1921. Costing $1.5 million it had 50 departments and 250 employees as well as the best technology for its time: heating, cooling and ventilation systems, as well as state-of-the-art elevators and escalators. Other highlights included a lovely restaurant on the fourth floor, an observation tower on the roof providing remarkable views of the city, and a large circulation library on the mezzanine level. In September 2002 HBC announced that the Bay would move to the former Eaton Centre located in what is today’s downtown core. The new store opened on May 2, 2003. The original store is listed in the city’s heritage registry and today is home to The Hudson, a condo development that was completed in 2010. The main floor of the old store houses various commercial operations including the Victoria Public Market.
Old HBC Warehouse
In 1858, gold was discovered on the Fraser River, an event that began the influx of people known as the gold rush. Victoria became a key stop for prospectors looking to acquire supplies, and HBC of course rose to the occasion. The company built a red brick store and warehouse on Wharf Street in 1859. The building was five stories tall with a basement and sub-basement as well as a high slate roof. For the next six decades the structure was the site of HBC retail activities in Victoria. The store and warehouse were taken down in 1912 as development began on the new modern department store at Douglas and Fisgard Streets. Today, only one wall of the warehouse remains off Wharf Street, and the rest of the site where the warehouse used to stand has become a parking lot.