Imperial Garage with a float plane navigation light atop its tower. Black Ball’s MV Chinook in the foreground as a BC Coast Steamship lies at her moorings across the harbour by the CP Steamship Terminal Courtesy BC Archives I-01906
A ten million candlepower arc lamp searchlight used to guide the new night airmail routes into the harbour.
One of the landmarks of the Inner Harbour, this structure symbolizes both the romance and reality of twentieth century transportation. Originally designed as a service station for the Imperial Oil Company, the eighty-foot tower is valued as a symbol of Victoria’s enthusiasm for the new age of aviation. At the time, there were plans to turn the Inner Harbour into a seaplane landing facility, and it was confidently predicted that aerial transport would supersede surface transport in the future. Aviation was dramatized by Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight from New York to Paris in 1927. The direct model for the Causeway Tower and Beacon was the two billion candlepower Lindbergh Beacon that topped the Palmolive Building in Chicago, dedicated in 1930 by its inventor, Elmer A. Sperry. His beacon was a high-intensity arc lamp searchlight used to mark the new night airmail routes, and a ten million candlepower unit was installed on top of the Causeway Tower in anticipation of increasing seaplane traffic.
Float Planes in the Harbour Today
Harbour Air Seaplanes continues on the vision of those early aviators. Harbour Air is the world’s largest all-seaplane airline. It offers scheduled service, tours and charters on routes between Victoria, Vancouver, Nanaimo, Sechelt, Comox, Whistler and the Gulf Islands with a fleet of 50 de Havilland Canada floatplanes. The airline began operations in 1982, and in 2007 led the airline industry by becoming North America’s first carbon neutral airline.
Passengers enjoy stories about the culture and destinations within the airline’s spectacular service area in the airline’s official in-flight magazine Harbour Air Magazine.
Harbour Air is at the leading edge of the harbour’s long relationship with floatplanes. From the first time Eddie Hubbard touched down his Boeing BI floatplane in 1919 with Canada’s first international airmail Victoria’s harbour has witnessed aviation history. Within the industry, Harbour Air Group is respected for its attention to safety, service and to reliability. From 2009 through 2011 is has been acknowledged as one BC Top 55 Employers and one of Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies. In 2011 it was recognized among BC’s Top 100 Employers for Young People, and one of Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies. That year it was named both Vancouver Island’s and Victoria’s Business of the Year, and was awarded the Canadian Tourism Commission Signature Experience Award. In 2012 Harbour Air became one of Canada’s top 10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures and was awarded the Cumberbatch Trophy by the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators.
Milestones Grill and Bar
Today Tourism Victoria maintains its main tourist information center in the building while Milestones Grill and Bar and public washrooms are located on the Lower Causeway level