About Vic West
Victoria West, commonly referred to as Vic West, is a vibrant, historic neighbourhood in the City of Victoria located west of and across the harbour from Downtown. Vic West occupies a peninsula bounded by the scenic Gorge Waterway, Victoria Harbour, and the eastern border of Esquimalt. The Johnson and Bay Street (Point Ellice) bridges link the area with the rest of the City.
Vic West is part of the traditional territory of the Songhees First Nation, or Lekwungen, Coast Salish people. When the Hudson’s Bay Co. established Fort Victoria in 1843, the Songhees moved their village across the harbour from the fort, where they lived in plank longhouses and played an important role in the local economy. In 1911 the Songhees were relocated to their present location in View Royal and the site was used for industrial development.
Vic West has long been valued for its direct access to the Inner Harbour and the Gorge Waterway, its views to the Olympic Mountains and meandering shoreline dotted with pocket beaches. These attributes made it a favourite spot for the prominent families of the 1880s and 90s to build their homes. The largest and grandest of the homes built along the shore of the Gorge was Burleith. Built in 1892 by James Dunsmuir, son of wealthy coal mine owner Robert Dunsmuir, it was destroyed by fire in 1931.
The wealthy of Vic West lived alongside the working class. Much of the residential and early commercial development occurred between the 1890s and 1913, facilitated by the arrival of streetcar service. Workers were employed by the nearby industries, including the Esquimalt & Nanaimo and BC Electric railways, shipbuilders, lumber mills, breweries, machine shops and foundries.
There was another brief flurry of building activity when the Burleith estate was subdivided in the 1930s. Growth after World War II was slow and many of the old houses fell into disrepair or were unsympathetically modernized.
The 1970s saw the beginning of the revitalization of the Vic West neighbourhood. As industries left the area, multi-family residential developments were built, resulting in a population influx and a building and restoration boom that continues to revitalize the neighbourhood.