Land Use Research Guide

Are you interested in researching historical land use? The following Resources and FAQs will help you get started.

Resources for Land Use Research

 City Directories List


The city directories will provide an idea of what type building was at a particular address (i.e. residence or business). The directories can also provide a rough idea of the age of a building, by the date the address first appears in the directories.

The early directories list residents (not necessarily owners) in the city and environs, and include their address and occupation. It wasn't until the 1890s that another section listing streets was added. Some directories cover only the city, while others include Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia. The Archives has a large collection of directories, most of which are accessible on microfilm.

During your research, keep in mind that the street numbering system for Victoria was changed in 1907. In addition to this, street names were often changed.

The Vancouver Public Library has digitized a large number of BC-related directories. Access BC City Directories 1860-1955 online.

Maps and Plans

Fire insurance plans and lot maps can be used for researching land use. Fire insurance plans show street numbers, the construction material used for each building, the number of storeys, type of roofing material, position of building on the lot, locations of out buildings, and sometimes the use of the building. The locations of gas station pumps also appear on some of the plans and may be useful to those doing environmental assessments. The Archives has five sets of fire insurance plans: 1903-1909, 1911-1916, 1921-1949, 1925-1949, and 1957-1967. Fire insurance plans were not created after 1967. The following fire insurance plans for Victoria are available online:

The Archives' map collection is searchable via the Archives' Online Search site.

Demolished Building Plans

Building plans and applications for plumbing connections for demolished buildings are held by the Archives and are searchable through the Archives' Online Search via the links above. These records are useful tools for researching architects as well as homes, buildings, and businesses that have been demolished. Applications for plumbing connections will usually confirm the date a building was plumbed and the date it was demolished. For plans of extant buildings, contact the City's Permits and Inspections Department: 250-361-0342.

Tax Assessment Rolls


Tax assessment records may be useful if you need to establish ownership of a property or the construction dates of a building.  These records show lot size, name of owner, land value, and improvements to the land (i.e. house). Tax assessment records are available for viewing in the Archives’ reading room.

Gasoline Storage Tank Permits


These records, available at the Fire Hall No. 1 (1234 Yates Street), include permits for the installation of gasoline storage tanks. They include the date, name of installer, location of tanks and pumps, and tank capacity. 

 Frequently Asked Questions about Land Use Research

 Q. Where can I find evidence of underground tanks?

A. The fire insurance plans show locations of gas stations and pumps and occasionally other underground tanks. The Fire Department has records of gasoline and oil tank permits from 1960-1991 which are open to the public.

Q. Where can I find land use information for other municipalities?

A. The city directories cover other municipalities after 1914. In addition, we also have various maps that cover areas outside the City limits. Several of the other municipalities in Greater Victoria have archives including Esquimalt, Oak Bay, Sidney, Saanich, and View Royal (see related links at right). The BC Archives holds early tax assessment rolls for the Victoria District that covers areas outside the city boundaries.

Q. Where can I find air photos?

A. Air photos are available at the University of Victoria's Library and through GeoBC. For more information, see the UVic Library's website.


Image above: British America Paint Co. (BAPCo) at Laurel Point. Previously known as Sehl Point, ca. 1950s [CVA M06564]