Victoria, located at the southern tip of British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, is not Canada’s oldest city. That honour goes to St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, founded in 1497.
Our new home doesn’t even crack the top ten among the oldest Canadian cities, missing that list by 50 years.
Victoria was founded as a Hudson Bay Company trading post in 1843, and was incorporated as a city in 1862, just five years before the British parliament passed the British North America Act, giving birth to the Dominion of Canada.
In spite of its relative youth, Victoria lays claim to being the site of the oldest Chinatown in Canada, the oldest synagogue in continuous use in Canada, and the oldest Masonic Lodge in British Columbia.
Victoria’s Chinatown is situated on the northern fringe of the city’s downtown core, just a couple of blocks away from Centennial Park and City Hall, and a 15-minute walk from the Empress Hotel, the Inner Harbour, and the grounds of the British Columbia Parliament buildings.
We lived in a vacation rental apartment one block south of Chinatown while we were waiting for our furniture to arrive from California, and we had the opportunity to explore the area.
The Gate of Harmonious Interest, at the corner of Fisgard and Government, adorns Chinatown’s main commercial block.
There are several narrow alleyways, lined with shops, that connect Fisgard to Pandora, one block over. One of these is Fan Tan Alley.
The Chinese population of Victoria holds education in high esteem. The Chinese Public School, built in 1908, is still in active use today.
Wherever you turn in Chinatown, there is a reminder of the heritage of this historic part of Victoria.
If you’ve enjoyed this first visit to our new home town, please stay tuned for additional glimpses into Victoria and Victorians.