Attractions in Victoria, BC
The oldest Chinatown in Canada is located in Victoria. In the heart of downtown are the Parliament Buildings, the Fairmont Empress Hotel, the gothic Christ Church Cathedral, and the acclaimed Royal British Columbia Museum, with large exhibits on local Aboriginal peoples, Natural History and Modern History. In addition, the heart of downtown also has the Victoria Bug Zoo, and the Pacific Undersea Gardens, which showcases the Giant Pacific Octopus, the Wolf Eel and other marine life of British Columbia. North of the city on the Saanich Peninsula are the Butchart Gardens, one of the biggest tourist attractions on the island, as well as the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, Victoria Butterfly Gardens and Centre of the Universe planetarium. There are also numerous National Historic Sites, such as the Fisgard Lighthouse, Craigflower Manor and Schoolhouse, Hatley Castle and Hatley Park and Fort Rodd Hill, which is a coastal artillery fort built in the late 1890s, located west of the city in Colwood. Also located west of the city you will find Western Speedway, a 4/10th-mile oval and the largest in Western Canada.
The British Columbia Parliament Buildings as the seat of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. The buildings face north on Belleville street facing the inner harbour and diagonally across from The Empress Hotel. A large statue of Queen Victoria lies on its front lawn as well a statue of a soldier to commemorate the province’s World War I, World War II and Korean War dead. Atop the central dome is a gold-covered statue of Captain George Vancouver. Free tours of the facility are offered throughout the week.
After the previous wooden building (colloquially known as “The Birdcages”) was destroyed by fire in 1895, construction of a new Parliament Building was authorized by an act of the provincial legislature in 1893. Francis Rattenbury, a recent English immigrant entered the architectural competition to design the new parliament, and signed his drawings with the pseudonym “A B.C. Architect”, eventually winning the competition, despite being only 25 years old. The grand scale of its 500-ft long facade, central dome and two end pavilions, the richness of its white marble, and its use of the currently-popular Romanesque Revival style contributed to its being seen as an impressive monument for the new province.
The British Columbia Legislative Building was officially opened in 1898. Its success garnered Rattenbury many more commissions, including additional buildings adjacent to the main facility in 1913-1915 and the design of The Empress Hotel.
Christ Church Cathedral, the episcopal seat of the Bishop of the Diocese of British Columbia, is the third cathedral church, the first, built in 1856, having been destroyed by fire in 1872. When the second building became outgrown in 1929, the present cathedral was built on Burdett and Quadra Avenues. The building measures 93′ wide, 140′ long, with towers 122′ high. It consists of a liturgical west front and a portion of a nave, construction having stalled at this point in the expectation that funding would eventually be raised to complete the cathedral. In the 1980s, the funds not having materialized, the building as it stood was finished off without the nave being extended or transepts, choir or other features of a gothic church being constructed.
Ross Bay Cemetery, located at 1516 Fairfield Road in Victoria, British Columbia, on Vancouver Island, Canada was opened in 1873. The 27.5 acre (111,000 m ²) cemetery is part of a public park and its south side faces Ross Bay on the Pacific Ocean. In 1911, a sea wall had to be constructed because of the severe erosion that occurred as a result of the relentless pounding of the ocean’s waves. During the 1930s, the City began planting a large number of trees and today the cemetery is quite different from the original that was mainly barren ground.
The Victorian-style Ross Bay Cemetery, contains numerous elaborate mausoleums and tall pillars from the early elite. Because the city of Victoria is the capital of the province of British Columbia, until the second quarter of the 20th century when improved ferry service and air travel made mobility to and from the island much easier, most senior politicians made Victoria their permanent home. As such, Ross Bay Cemetery is the burial site for many of the province’s premiers.
Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Site is adjacent to Fort Rodd Hill, and the site of Fisgard Lighthouse, the first lighthouse on the west coast of Canada.
Fisgard Lighthouse was built in 1860, automated in 1929 and, as of 2006, it is still used for navigation. The lighthouse keeper’s residence is open to the public and contain displays and exhibits about the site’s history. Fisgard’s tower, accessed from the second storey through what was a bedroom, is not open, due to public safety concerns and the fact that it is still a working lightstation.
Fisgard Lighthouse and its sister station Race Rocks, were constructed in 1859-60, to ease the movement of naval ships into Esquimalt harbor and merchant ships into Victoria harbour. The lightstations were also seen as a significant political and fiduciary commitment on the part of the British government to the Colony of Vancouver Island, partly in response to the American gold miners flooding into the region: some 25,000 arrived in 1858 for the Fraser gold rush.
Fisgard, the first purpose-built lighthouse on the west coast of Canada, has a 47-foot tower with an 18-foot high lantern room at the top. The elevation of the light is 95 feet above mean sea level.
Local brickyards and quarries supplied stone and brick used in construction, while the lens, lamp apparatus and lantern room were accompanied from England by the first keeper, Mr. George Davies, in 1859. The cast-iron spiral staircase in the tower was made in sections in San Francisco.
A few of the many interesting, varied, and fascinating things to do in our lovely city of Victoria, bc.
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