Greeting the arrival of RMS Empress of Russia at Rithet’s Piers.
Big ideas carry the challenge of change. In the mid-1880’s, as Vancouver was experiencing its birth, Victoria was booming. Victoria businessman R.P. Rithet decided to increase his business fortunes. His problem: the shoaling waters off the aptly named Shoal point prohibited ocean-going vessels from entering the Inner Harbour. His solution: build a pair of deep-water piers where today’s Canadian Coast Guard station stands.
It did not take long for the project’s opposition in that quiet little town of yesterday to pooh-pooh the project as Rithet’s “Folly”.
Liner straightening up for the the fairway leading between Pier 1 and 2; Rithet’s Pier at the Outer Wharf, Victoria. Courtesy BC Archives D-01659
Opening Victoria to the World
Rithet pressed on, and within a few short years Victoria was transformed as 65 and more deep-sea vessels each month were tying up at what became known as “The Outer Wharves”, his “folly” forgotten. Ships arrived carrying all manner of beneficial imports and left laden with the riches of the island’s natural resources. Industrial and freight handling businesses established themselves at the foot of the piers. Passenger liners like Canadian Pacific’s Empress of Japan and Empress of Russia brought so many new Canadians via the Outer Wharves that Canada’s Dominion Government built an immigration facility nearby to process them.
The economic success of Rithet’s “Folly” prompted James Bay farmers to subdivide their lands, creating Victoria’s first housing boom. Victoria grew, and all this new activity created new streams of income, and wealth, for many Victorians that reverberate through to today.