Find out more about Victoria with these frequently asked questions.

Image above: Ainslie Helmcken with Penny Seedhouse, Visual Records Curator, ca. 1974-1976 [CVA M09249]

  1. When was Victoria incorporated?

    August 2, 1862.

  2. Do you have a brief history of Victoria available?

    There are a variety of publications available in the reference library that provide brief histories of Victoria.

  3. Do you have a list of Victoria's Mayors and Councillors?

    Thomas Harris, who served from 1862 to 1865, was Victoria’s first Mayor. For various lists of Mayors and Councillors, follow these links:

  4. When was City Hall built?

    City Hall was built in several stages. The first part was erected on the N.W. corner of Douglas and Pandora Streets, the ground was broken on April 2, 1877, and the first Council meeting in the new building was held on December 11, 1878. In 1880, the Tiger Engine Company fire hall was added to the existing structure on the Pandora Street side. The Douglas Street, or north wing, addition and clock tower were added in 1890. In 1962, as part of the Centennial Square project, a new wing housing the Council chambers was added to the rear of the building. At the same time, the entire interior of City Hall was renovated.

  5. When did the City Hall clock officially start and how much did it cost?

    At noon on May 5, 1891. It cost $4,821.12.

  6. Who was the Architect of City Hall?

    John Teague designed the original building, the fire hall, and the Douglas Street, or north wing addition, and clock tower.

  7. When were the cluster lights installed in Victoria?

    In 1909, a group of Victoria businessmen were attending an exposition in Seattle and were impressed by the newly installed cluster lights there. Upon returning to Victoria, they petitioned City Council and, in 1910, cluster lights were placed on city streets. Although they were inspired by the Seattle lights, Victoria's cluster lights differ slightly, being designed and manufactured locally by Hutchison Bros. Their design has not changed since 1910, but in later years floral baskets were suspended from them, and together they have become synonymous with Victoria, the City of Gardens.

  8. What is the Fort Victoria Brick Project?

    The Fort Victoria Brick Project was an undertaking of the Greater Victoria Civic Archives Society, which sought to commemorate early Victoria pioneers and settlers by outlining the boundaries of the original fort with a double row of bricks, each engraved with the name of a pioneer. Learn more about the Brick Project.

  9. What are the population figures for the City of Victoria over the years?

    • 1871 - 3,270
    • 1881 - 5,925
    • 1891 - 16,841
    • 1901 - 20,919
    • 1911 - 31,660
    • 1921 - 38,727
    • 1931 - 39,080
    • 1941 - 44,068
    • 1951 - 51,331
    • 1961 - 54,941
    • 1971 - 61,760
    • 1981 - 63,800
    • 1991 - 67,380
  10. What are Victoria's twin cities?

    Suzhou, China; Morioka, Japan; Napier, New Zealand; Khabarovsk, Russia. Palm Springs was a twin city from 1967 to 1981. For further information on twin cities, click here.

  11. What happened to the Chinese Bell that was in Beacon Hill Park? And what is its history?

    The bell is now housed at the Greater Victoria Art Gallery. The 2,000 pound cast iron bell was made in 1627 for the Buddhist nuns at the Bak Yee Nunnery, district of Foo Ning, China. It is named in honour of Kuan-Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, and the names of the 360 residents of the monastery are inscribed upon it. The bell was taken by the British in 1903 and brought to Victoria by William Macdonald of H.M.S. Pique and placed in Beacon Hill Park in 1904. Unfortunately the weather and vandalism both took their toll and therefore it was decided to give it a new home.

  12. Where can I find the names of early houses in Victoria?

    Almost all house names are listed in Henderson's City of Victoria and Suburban Directory, 1908: View the House Names (Alphabetical List) [PDF - 64 KB].

  13. What is the history of the Belmont Building?

    The building was built in 1912 by architects Horton and Phipps. The building was named for the Belmont Saloon which had previously stood on the site. The building was originally planned as a hotel, but just prior to its completion the plans were modified and it was finished as an office building. Soon after it opened, a time ball and storm lights were installed on the roof. These had previously been located on the post office across the street.

  14. Can you provide me with a brief history of Ross Bay Cemetery?

    Ross Bay Cemetery officially opened on March 1, 1873, although the first burial predates this by three months. It was expanded several times over the years and is now 27.5 acres, containing approximately 17,000 plots. The land was acquired by the Cemetery Board in 1872 in trust for cemetery purposes. In 1879, the trust was voided by a Cemetery Ordinance Act which vested Ross Bay Cemetery in trust to the City of Victoria. Certain religious groups could, under this act, purchase parts of the land for $300 an acre. The groups who did were the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church, the Methodists, and the Presbyterians. Their property is registered in the name of the City of Victoria in trust, on behalf of each religious group.

  15. Where was Victoria's first cemetery?

    The first cemetery was established by the Hudson's Bay Company, for the interment of its employees and others, most of whom were naval personnel. It was located on the S.W. corner of Douglas and Johnson Streets. Interments were made there from 1843 to 1861. The second cemetery was called the Quadra Street burying ground. It was located on Quadra Street between Mears Street and Rockland Avenue. Although it is no longer consecrated ground, some grave markers are still on the site. The site has been a park since 1909 and is now known as Pioneer Square.

  16. What was Medana's Grove?

    In 1843, the Hudson's Bay Company established a 10 acre farm in the area that that is now known as James Bay. Three years later, the farm had grown to encompass 160 acres. The farm was named Beckley by William W. Sims, who leased the land from the HBC in 1850. Twelve years later, 110 acres of the farm was divided into lots and sold off. One of the buyers was an Italian by the name of Paolo (Paul) Medana. He purchased several lots and built a large home. The surrounding property was heavily wooded and became a popular place for picnics and walks. The locals called it "Medana's Grove" Paul Medana died in 1868 leaving the land to his wife and children. Four years later, the search had begun for new cemetery sites as Quadra Street was full and in a state of disrepair. The Trustees of the Cemetery Board selected 11.5 acres of Medana's Grove to be the new cemetery. The local residents protested the decision and sent a petition to council. The citizens won and Ross Bay was chosen as the new cemetery site. Medana's Grove remained wooded until 1880 when it was divided into lots and auctioned off by the family.

  17. Where is the Chinese Cemetery?

    The Chinese Cemetery is located on Harling Point in Oak Bay. The 3.5 acre site was purchased in 1902 by the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association.

  18. When did the City of Victoria acquire Royal Athletic Park?

    The City purchased the land in 1925 from the estate of G.M. Purchelle for the sum of $30,543.00.

  19. Did Victoria drivers ever drive on the left side of the road like the British?

    Yes. On the last day of 1921, the rule of the road was changed at midnight, from left to right. The change not only affected drivers and cyclists but the streetcars as well. Months of pre-planning made sure that the changes were accomplished without accident and with minimum inconvenience.

  20. Where was the Aged and Infirm Women's Home?

    In 1894 the Local Council of Women formed a special committee called friendly help to care for those in need. They soon realized that destitute and aged women were in dire need of housing. After four years of petitioning Victoria City Council, the "Aged and Infirm Women's Home" was opened on McClure Street. By 1907, larger facilities were needed and a new building was built on Rupert Street, now 857 Rupert Terrace. In 1958 the name was changed to Rose Manor.

  21. What were the boundaries of Fort Victoria?

    N.E. corner Bastion and Government; N.W. corner Bastion and Commercial Alley; S.W. corner Wharf and Broughton (almost); S.E. corner Government and between Fort and Broughton (closer to Broughton).

  22. When did the downtown Victoria streets become one way?

    The first sets of paired one-way streets which were designed to ease the ever increasing traffic burden went into effect September 1968. The first of these were Yates and Fort and Johnson and Pandora.

  23. Which years did the roundabout operate?

    The traffic roundabout which was located at the intersection of Government, Douglas, Hillside, and Gorge was constructed in the late 1940s and demolished in 1963.

  24. What is the meaning of the City crest?

    Victoria's Coat-of-Arms, which was granted by the Crown in the City's centennial year of 1962, is described as follows:

    The centre of the design is a blue shield with a wedge-shaped section of white placed upon it, the point of the wedge towards the base. Upon this white wedge or "pile" as it is termed in heraldry, is placed another one slightly smaller, in scarlet. The overall effect is a white V separating the two colour areas of blue and red, thus creating a cypher for the name Victoria. Starting from the point in base and radiating upward and outward this white V is also suggestive of the growth of the City. The scarlet wedge-shaped upper section may be said to represent the peninsula where the City of Victoria is located jutting out into the blue sea, the white V suggesting the surfy coast line. The "Tudor" Crown displayed on the scarlet area pays honour to and commemorates Queen Victoria the Good, after whom the City was named.

    The shield is flanked by emblematic Angel figures as on the City's Seal representing the twin sisters of Colonization on the left and Civilization on the right. Each supports with the inner hand a branch of laurel as a symbol of honour and form of tribute to those with municipal public service to their credit.

    The All-seeing Eye above is the emblem of the Trinity and suggestive of our constant dependence for the blessings of life upon the bounty of the Deity; the dove with the olive branch symbolizes hope and peace; and the gold Mural Crown is a symbol of municipal authority. These three together form the Crest. The mantling flowing from the top of the helmet indicates the municipal colours, Gold and Scarlet (the Royal Colours, another reference to Queen Victoria).

    The compartment upon which the shield and supporters rest is of Clouds as on the Seal, while the light blue and white wavy bands along the front edge of the Clouds represent Water and indicate Victoria's insular position.

    The City's motto, "Semper Liber" -- Always Free -- is borne on a scroll at the base of the composition and is suggestive of the Free Port system in Victoria's experience and civil institutions.

    M09353 - City of Victoria coat-of-arms

    M09353 - City of Victoria coat-of-arms

    Blazon of Armorial Ensigns

    Arms: Azure, on a pile Argent another Gules charges with a representation of the Royal Crown proper.

    Crest: Descending upon a mural crown Or, a dove, wings expanded, in the beak a sprig of olive Proper, the whole ensigned of an eye within a triangle the base radiated downwards Gold.

    Supporter: On either side an angel Proper, vested Argent, winged Or, supporting by the interior hand a branch of laurel Vert, the angels standing on a compartment of clouds Proper, in the base of which a ribband barry wavy Argent and Azure, below the compartment on a scroll Or, double Gules, the Motto "Semper Liber".