vihistory is a web site designed to aid in historical research of Vancouver Island, at which it succeeds admirably. You should poke around and have fun with their census data and the other worthy, if dreary, pursuits it affords the serious scholar.
One feature which is not immediately clear on first glance, perhaps deliberately as has entertainment potential, is a large selection of very high-resolution maps and images which you can download from this page. The file sizes are large, of course, but increasingly that is less of an obstacle in the past. The maps are mostly of historic Victoria, but there are some regional maps such as telegraph and lighthouse maps of British Columbia, and a couple of maps of Nanaimo. As usual, I have surfed through the maps so you don’t have to – and some of them are remarkably fun, and informative.
For example, the above detail form a well-known 1860 diorama of Victoria and environs nicely shows the Songhees Village on the west side of the Inner Harbour. It might be worth comparing to the high resolution 1859 photographs I posted a few weeks ago, some of which are taken from “Church Hill”, presumably to the upper right.
The same “Indian Village” can be seen in the above hand-written annotation twelve years later, 1872. If you know Victoria, this is where the Blue Bridge now crosses. Interestingly, there is a “Lunatic Asylum” shown right beside the Songhees Village – presumably now the Shutters Development. Plus ca change.
A few decades further on, and the reserve is thoroughly dissected, with the “Headquarters of the Sealing Fleet” parked offshore, in the detail above from a 1902 transportation map of Victoria’s Streetcar Network. Fragments of this transportation systems rails remain on Store Street, as late night, high-heeled, drunken revellers leaving the Canoe Club have discovered, I am told. This map is quite attractive and worth downloading for aesthetics alone – the thumbnail doesn’t do it justice at all.
The above map detail shows, among other things, a fine-looking (presumably Chinese) public market on the current Centennial Square, which was the heart of historic Chinatown. Note the “Opium Factory” marked to the centre-left: very Victorian, really. These Fire Insurance maps are a lot of fun: its worth downloading the large mosaics and slowly panning around your favourite haunts. Who knew 800 block of Broughton Street was called Kane Street and 800 block Courtenay was called Rae Street? etc….
Of course, the purpose of these hyper-detailed Fire Insurance maps was to assess risk and compensation, as the one below with many fire hazards noted, shows. That one is more or less the site of Capital Iron at the foot of Chatham Street. I haven’t linked to any Nanaimo maps (nothing personal) but there are a number of them as well at the maps download page. This is a great site overall, especially the maps – what a great thing to have these down-loadable at decent resolution that allows the details to be read. It was put together by professional historians at UVIC and VIU, but probably has interest for archaeologists as well as the more papery disciplines.