Wednesday, July 25, 2012

1910 in Victoria

I may be the Vancouver Vagabond and I enjoy writing on Vancouver and it's history. Sometimes though I like to take a look at other areas of the province - as anyone who reads my blog knows - and today I want to tell you about a fire in Victoria in 1910.
1910 was a happy, prosperous time for Victoria. The exciting age of science and industry replaced the fur trade days and it was seen all over the capital city. The 1860s heralded the arrival of the telegraph, the telephone in the 1880s and the first streetcar in 1890. In 1895, the first moving picture was seen by residents. The dawn of a new century heralded so much promise.

The first decade of the twentieth century seemed like a magical time. The first automobile arrived in Victoria in 1902, university work had begun, in 1904, the cornerstone of the Carnegie Library was laid. CPR announced in the early 1900s that a large modern hotel would be built on the Inner Harbour and on January 20, 1908, the Empress opened its doors. (My mother and I were in Victoria in early 2008 or 2009 and we went for high tea at the Empress. A beautiful experience.)

The entire western world was in an economic boom and Victoria was no exception. A young premier, Richard McBride, vowed to cover Vancouver Island with a network of railways; fine private residences and ornate public and commercial buildings were rising on all sides. A stock exchange opened in the city. Not even the death of King Edward could depress the citizens of this great city for long. For a short time, houses and streetcars were shrouded in black and purple but work continued on the Dunsmuir's mansion "Hatley Park".

For fifty cents a month, a person could get the Colonist newspaper delivered and read ads from such as the tobacconist E.A. Morris who proclaimed "I am the man who imports cigarettes for ladies," while clothiers W. and J. Wilson advertised "sox" for fifty cents a pair. The "Ideal Provision Company" was ready to sell sirloin of beef at 12 1/2 cents a pound and if someone thought that was too expensive, pot roasts were 9 cents.

A Colonist editorial predicted that Winston Churchill was "almost certain to become an exceedingly formidable factor in the public life of the empire"; someone else predicted that women would get the vote by 1920. (in case you are wondering B.C. women got the right to vote on April 5, 1917; federally, we were given that right on May 24, 1918) The paper also declared that all motorcars should carry lights after dark. 

A noteworthy event in Victoria happened in the autumn of 1910. The conclusion of a financial agreement with the residents of the local Songhees Indian reserve - the reservation was 115 acres across the harbour to the west of the city. In return for a payment of $10,000 to head of each of 43 families on the reserve, the Songhees agreed to cede the area to the white man and move to a new location.

So life was good in Victoria, B.C. in 1910. Life was prosperous and the future was bright. It seemed as if everything was perfect and always would be. Alas, as we all know, nothing lasts forever and tragedy was soon to strike. Friday I will tell you what happened.

I would like to thank the book British Columbia Disasters by Derek Pethick for the information I am relating to you.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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