Early Victoria from the sky

Talk will explore bird's-eye views of Victoria, and a mystery artist

Before airplanes were invented, before anyone went up in balloons, people wondered what their world looked like from the sky.

Bird’s-eye views were created to satisfy this curiosity, and they were hugely popular across North America in the late 19th century. Victoria is lucky enough to have two separate prints, one done in 1878 and the other in 1889. Hundreds of families bought them and hung them framed in their hallways to show how grand their city had become. And the city council sent copies around the world, to promote investment and tourism.

But Victoria also had a third bird’s-eye view – a huge and stunning water colour, done by a middle-aged female artist newly arrived in town. This meticulous miniaturist portrayed several hundred houses, schools, stores and churches on one enormous sheet, which subsequently disappeared for a century.

Where has it been? What makes this picture unique? What prompted Annie Ross to paint it? How accurate was she?

A heavily illustrated public lecture, co-sponsored by the Hallmark Heritage Society and the Victoria Historical Society will examine these questions on Monday (Feb. 20) at 7:30 p.m. in the Victoria City Hall ante-chamber.

The lecture celebrates Heritage Week in Canada, and is one of the first events marking Victoria’s 150th anniversary, the city’s sesquicentennial.

Historian Russ Fuller and heritage researcher Nick Russell will compare the prints and the painting, and will show pictures of the many buildings depicted, then and now.

The event is free. For more information email office@hallmarksociety.ca or inquiry@victoriahistoricalsociety.bc.ca