Monday, July 30, 2012
Benefits of the Blaze
The fire spurted several times across Broad Street and came close enough to the hotel damage it. Fortunately, the building did not actually catch on fire although guests were advised to leave and many carried their belongings into the nearby streets. The rooms did however suffer water damage from the hoses.
It took until 3:00 am to get the fire under control and by dawn, all flames were extinguished. The next day though revealed a bad sight - the entire area bounded by Government, Fort, Broad and Trounce streets had been destroyed. The estimated loss of property and merchandise was $1,500,000. The streetcar line along Government Street was blocked by debris.
Fortunately, there was only one death as a result of the fire. The wife of the proprietor of the Bismark Hotel, Mrs. Samuel Shore, died of shock.
The sons of the founder of the Spencer store, Christopher and Victor Spencer, were in Vancouver at the time of the fire. Undaunted by the loss, the brothers announced they would rebuild the Victoria store on a larger scale. A few days later, the public was informed that the Spencers had bought the Driard Hotel and the nearby Victoria Theater. This is where they would be carrying out business. It also meant the end of the famous hostelry and began the Empress's undisputed leadership as the premier hotel of Victoria.
There were benefits to this fire though. View Street had previously come to an awkward end at Broad Street. Now it was extended one block west to Government Street, which improved the flow of traffic and allowed the erection of two new office blocks - the Central Building and the Union (now known as the Royal Trust) Building.
And the unsightly telephone wires, which had snaked overhead? Those were now put underground.
I hope you find the beauty around you.
Karen Magill, Vancouver, Victoria, Spencer, 1910, British Columbia