The area east of Quadra Street and north of Hillside Avenue rises to the summit of Smith’s Hill, also known as The Rise, Work’s Rocks and Summit Hill. The landscape was once covered in Garry Oak meadows except for the swampy land near Hillside and Quadra. This is part of the traditional territory of the Lekwungen speaking (Songhees) First Nations. They cultivated and harvested the meadows’ indigenous camas lily bulbs for a staple food source.
Hillside-Quadra is within Section IV of Joseph Pembertons’s original 1851 survey of Victoria. It was purchased by the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Chief Factor John Work (Wark) in 1852 who named it Hillside Farm. Many of the area’s streets are named after John and Josette Work’s 12 children. Until the end of the 19th century the area was largely agricultural and sparsely populated with market gardens and pastures remaining near Topaz and Quadra for some time. The first subdivision of Hillside Farm began in 1885 west of Quadra and was known as Hillside Extension. The dominant building in the area was the 3-storey brick Hillside Jail near the site of the current S.J. Willis School. The Victoria & Sidney Railway operated along Blanshard Street from 1894 to 1919. Most of the houses in Hillside Extension, along with North Ward School, were demolished in 1961 as part of an urban renewal project which included redeveloping Blanshard Street as the main access route between downtown and the new Swartz Bay ferry terminal.
The land east of Quadra and north of Hillside was subdivided as Hillside Extension C in the late 1880s. Smith Hill is named after William J. Smith, partner in the building contractors Smith & Elford. They also operated Victoria Brick & Tile Co., one of several brickyards at the present-day site of Mayfair Mall. Smith built a substantial brick house and stables on Montrose Avenue in 1892. The house later became Sunhill (tuberculosis) Sanatorium, taking advantage of the fresh air away from the City.
Most of Smith Hill was developed during Victoria’s largest building boom from 1907 to 1913. Some houses were built as rental income properties while the upper slopes of Smith Hill, with their fine views, developed into a fashionable middle-class neighbourhood. WWI and the economic depression brought a halt to most residential construction. WWII, the post-war demand for affordable accommodation and the economic difficulties of maintaining larger houses resulted in many homes being converted into suites.
Quadra Village, the 2-block commercial area at Quadra & Hillside, is the centre of this diverse community. The Village has recently undertaken several revitalization initiatives. It is home to unique shops and restaurants as well as a period movie theatre.
Printed versions of the Hillside-Quadra Neighbourhood Heritage Walking Tour are available from Victoria City Hall, the Tourist Info Centre on the Inner Harbour or the Victoria Heritage Foundation