The iron rudder and drive assembly of the wooden , steam-driven British coastal freighter ‘War Nanoose’ on the Point Hope ways in 1919. Photo: Harold Flemmng
The ring of industry that grew around Victoria’s harbour, and the hard working people it attracted, were responsible for the little settlement’s meteoric growth into the province’s Provincial Capital and eventually the vibrant city we enjoy today.
From Small Beginnings
The seeds of her industry were planted in 1846 with the establishment of Fort Victoria’s blacksmith shop. In those early years industry progressed slowly to primarily serve the local community. Then in 1856 the Fraser River gold rush brought a flood of new opportunities and demands for a wide range of new enterprises beyond being the Pacific headquarters for the Hudson’s Bay Company, the settlement’s original purpose.
Within fourteen years, with Seattle only six years old and neither Vancouver nor New Westminster being extant, Victoria was growing into the industrial powerhouse of the northwest. That growth included the establishment of fabricators including Albion Iron Works, the only foundry north of San Francisco. Sawmills, and the shipyards at Point Hope, Pacific Canada’s oldest continuously operating shipyard. Soap and paint factories, coal gas and turpentine plants, rice and flourmills, breweries, and a wide range of other manufactories and the warehouses of importers and exporters sprang up to produce and store goods for both the growing city and for export all along the coast.
A map illustrating the piers and wharves that once ringed the harbour.
By the 1950’s, at the peak of Victoria’s industrial growth, the harbour was studded with the wharves and piers that served the heart of this seafaring city.