Black History Month: Keeping Victoria Clean in the 19th Century

Point Ellice House Museum and Gardens February marks both Black History Month and Heritage Week (February 15th to 20th) in British Columbia. With this in mind, we want to share the stories of a few Black workers featured in our current exhibit, Springs and Scavengers: Waste and Water in Victoria, 1842-1915. For much of the nineteenth century, the garbage and sewage (also known as ‘night soil’) generated by the inhabitants of Victoria was removed from private property by “scavengers” – night soil and garbage collectors who operated under regulations established by the City of Victoria. Victoria’s Black business community included…...Continue reading

The Point Ellice Swimming Baths

Tim Fitzthum, Volunteer Interpreter By the late 19th century, the Rock Bay neighbourhood had become a mixture of waterside factories, mills and shipyards, modest workers lodgings, and grand homes along Pleasant Street.  Along the shores of Rock Bay and the Upper Harbour, one could find tanneries, sawmills, factories producing matches, canned fruit, watercraft, metalworks, and coal gas.  Smokestacks, beehive burners, wood and coal yards, warehouses and sheds, log rafting, and sealing ships were a common sight in the area. Within this unlikely industrial setting the Young Men’s Christian Association of Victoria (YMCA) established a facility in 1893 for young people…...Continue reading

Mineral and Soda: Bottled Water in Victoria’s Past

Tom Bown, Research Associate, Royal British Columbia Museum Despite the fact Victoria has, for the most part, had a safe water supply, anyone living in the 19th and early 20th century needed to remain vigilant. The threat of serious water borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid were never far from mind, but sometimes the choices for water and waste were limited. As an example, in my own Victoria West property, I have located both the original well and privy – they were only seven meters apart! Until chlorination of municipal water supplies started in the first half of the…...Continue reading

Point Ellice House & Victoria’s Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Point Ellice House, Museum & Gardens National Historic Site is a green oasis surrounded by industrial lands on the shores of the Selkirk Water. The Point Ellice House shore is a component of the Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary and the Victoria “naturehood,” as recognized by Nature Canada. The site’s vegetated shoreline was restored in 2014 and is among the wildest left in Victoria Harbour and nearby waters. This restoration work continues today. To be a part of our ongoing efforts, consider volunteering at Point Ellice House. Guest Post by Jacques Sirois, Co-Warden – Trial Islands Ecological Reserve, Caretaker –…...Continue reading

Rock Bay – One of Victoria’s Best Kept Secrets

  When it was first built in the early 1860s, Point Ellice House was a semi-rural estate, located quite a distance from the very small downtown of Victoria. In the many years since, the other grand homes and residences around Point Ellice House have disappeared. Today, the house and gardens are an oasis in the midst of urban industrial activity. When residents of Victoria think of Rock Bay, gravel piles, dump trucks, and waste transfer stations are likely the first images that come to mind. Of course, Rock Bay is also home to many thriving businesses, local artists, and interesting…...Continue reading

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