City of Victoria turning clock back to 1862

Ceremonies, activities this week culminate Victoria’s 150th anniversary program

Pioneer Players members Sylvia Van Kirk

Pioneer Players members Sylvia Van Kirk

The City of Victoria is hosting its 150th birthday party tomorrow (Aug. 2) in Centennial Square by offering a window into its diverse history.

The celebration, happening from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., includes a public ceremony kicked off by Mayor Dean Fortin, historical exhibits, music, refreshments, and period-dressed performers, who will transport visitors back to 1862.

“I think it’s a very significant day,” said Victoria 150 co-ordinator Alice Bacon. “It provides people with the opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come and where we’re headed.”

Back in 1862, the city’s downtown was still a work in progress and Vancouver Island remained a British colony.

The grounds of Centennial Square have their own story. They housed dozens of Chinese market gardens 150 years ago, when entrepreneurial gardeners grew their own vegetables and went door-to-door selling their goods.

“A vegetable peddler with a bamboo pole was a very common sight in those days,” said John Adams, who hosts several historical walking tours of downtown Victoria.

At the time of incorporation, the land that is now Centennial Square was owned by Kwong Lee & Co., a Chinese merchant house that rivaled the Hudson’s Bay Company as far north in British Columbia as Barkerville.

“Centennial Square itself would have been mostly Chinese,” Adams said, adding the sparse wooden buildings would have made a much more quaint cityscape.

Victoria’s first mayor, Thomas Harris, was elected soon after incorporation by a show of hands.

The 300-pound butcher, who remained mayor until 1865, built a house at the corner of Government Street and Bastion Square, where the Irish Times pub currently stands.

In addition to Thursday’s celebration, organizers are hoping the B.C. Day holiday will bring out the crowds.

On Monday (Aug. 6) from noon until 9 p.m., enjoy an eclectic mix of live music and hands-on activities for children at St. Ann’s Academy and the Cameron Bandshell in Beacon Hill Park.

“There’s something for everyone at both of these events,” Bacon said. “But the ideas are rooted in the importance of community living.”

For more information, visit victoria.ca and click on “Victoria 150” or head down to Centennial Square on Thursday.

dpalmer@vicnews.com