THE GROWING IMPORTANCE OF VANCOUVER and consequent decline in Victoria's importance was causing concern in the early egos to businessmen and others for whom Victoria was the one and only "Queen City." Alternative sources of revenue had to be found if Victoria was to survive. As a result of their efforts the Empress Hotel came into being and laid firmly the foundations of what has been Victoria's most important industry ever since, namely tourism.
Not that Victoria was until then a stranger to tourists. The city had always been a mecca for ranchers, politicians, businessmen and all who wanted a few weeks amid naturally beautiful and man-made civilized environment to offset the roughness of nature in the raw. But travel had become easier. Other attractive communities were springing up this side of San Francisco. Victoria had to have something special. Like everything undertaken by the Canadian Pacific Railway Co., the Empress Hotel was conceived on a grand scale with a view to permanence. The magic transformation of the waterfront caused by the construction of the hotel is inconceivable to Victorians of today.
The site now graced by the hotel and its extensive gardens was an odoriferous slough and garbage dump for the city. The slough was filled with silt dredged from the harbour to create footage on Government, Humboldt and Bellevue streets. The James Bay wooden bridge was removed and the Causeway built. Instigators of the $1,600,000 project were Harry Barnard and David Russell Ker. So keen was Barnard on the project that he became a city councillor and then mayor in order to further it. The hotel was opened in 1908. The north and south wings were added in 1911 and 1928 respectively and whole complex cost $13,000,000.
Harry Barnard, son of Francis Barnard, inherited his father's business acumen. Francis Barnard, it will be recalled, founded Barnard's Express services which monopolized freight and passenger services during the Cariboo gold rush when freight on a ton of merchandise from Victoria to the Cariboo was $825. His son Harry was the typical businessman-politician of the era. He owned property all over town and his brother-in-law, J. Mara, was the most powerful man on the Mainland, politically and financially. He was interested in mines and initiated transport companies in Kamloops and Revelstoke. Mara lived with his brother-in-law on part of the "Duvals" estate on Rockland Avenue, his address being 750 Pemberton and the Mara home and coachhouse still stand at the rear of "Duvals," both converted into apartments.
Harry Barnard's friends included the Rithets, Dunsmuirs, Pooleys, Wards, Trutches, Kers, Macdonalds (senator), Creases, Turners and others whose connections embraced everyone worth knowing from San Francisco to Victoria and Vancouver to Ottawa and London. Harry Barnard induced the C.P.R. directors to see the potentialities of Victoria as a tourist resort and transit stay. Canadian Pacific S.S. Co. were already running a regular service from Vancouver to Victoria, later at the instigation of Captain Troup to embrace (in 1928) the triangle run-Vancouver, Victoria, Seattle. The Empress liners were also bringing Victoria to the attention of world travellers.
Before C.P.S. became interested, the American-owned Canadian Pacific Navigation Co. operated a service daily to Vancouver. C.P.S. bought them out and so improved the traffic that they aroused the envy of American interests. In the early I goo's the Americans tried to "muscle in" on the service and at one time C.P.S. reduced the return fare to Seattle to 25 cents. Passengers got the added thrill of competing steamers racing to reach port first, but the Canadian Pacific steamships always won.
Victoria, well provided though the city was with first class hotels. With its additions it had 570 rooms, most with bathroom. No money was spared to give the interior decor an atmosphere of dignified luxury. It was a bad day for many of the city's hotels when the Empress started operating. They were already feeling the pinch of slackening demand, the Klondike gold rush having been their last bonanza. The collapse of the sealing industry and departure of captains and crews deprived them of a most profitable off-season income. Competition between hotels for business was so intense that C. G. Harrison, who was operating the Driard under some difficulty following a fire, complained bitterly that touts told disembarking visitors the Driard "had been burned out."
Harrison said he didn't mind fair competition but this was a bit too much. The Empress quickly monopolized most of the prestige trade. To stay at the Empress put the hallmark on respectability. Its banqueting rooms and assembly conveniences made it the social centre of Victoria, and its managers were as well known as the lieutenant governor himself. Through the years managers were Stewart Gordon, Col. B. H. Humble, H. Jackson, A. Benaglia, T. Coles, W. Winpross, B. F. Quail, J. E. Evans, H. J. Wilson, the famous Kirk Hodges, manager for 21 years, a flower enthusiast who started the Empress nurseries and initiator of the Empress Golf Week, Thomas Chester, Cyril Chapman, Les Parkinson, O.B.E. and now Louis Finamore.
Equally well known to most people was maitre d'hotel Zanichelli, who joined the staff in 1927. Dancing being one of the favourite local recreations ... more so in past years than today ... Billy Tickle and his Saturday night "Toe-Tappers" were an institution. Billy Tickle from Cumberland played for 32 ¼ years at The Empress and gave his last performance in 1960. Famous guests who have stayed at The Empress include the Prince of Wales ( 1919 ) , Winston Churchill, Lord Jellicoe, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and the King and Queen of Siam with 56 attendants and 556 pieces of baggage. Princess Margaret was a guest before her marriage. Her visit was marred by an unpleasant incident. An ambitious but rather brash girl reporter from Toronto pretended to have been accepted in the Princess's intimate circle. She wrote a report on how "she got together with the girls, they kicked off their shoes and discussed make-up and the Princess put a call through to her boy friend Group Captain Peter Townsend."
There had been much talk in London of the Princess's friendship with the Group Captain, who was a divorced man, and the Princess was understandably annoyed at the report. She issued an angry official denial of the whole story and the reporter was denied the privileges accorded to other press representatives. The Duke of Edinburgh has addressed several gatherings in The Empress, the last being the joint meeting of Canadian Clubs in 1969. As an institution which many cities envied but could not emulate, The Empress came in for good-humoured sarcasm in other cities. The afternoon tea and crumpets in the lounge where staid dowagers allegedly listened to Billy Tickle's chamber music was the subject of many witticisms.
The most famous was the cartoon by the Vancouver Sun's Norris when one afternoon a shot was fired through the ceiling of the lounge. Shooter was an amateur hold-up man who after robbing a room guest was making his escape. The dignified imperturbability of the dowagers and retired colonels as they go on sipping their tea while incredibly eyeing the hole in the ceiling and the masked gunman was one of Norris's funniest cartoons. After World War II the Empress Hotel and the Canadian Pacific steamships suffered from militant trade unionism. Strikes made the ferry service to Vancouver unprofitable. It was abandoned, but the C.P.R. triangle service in summer was maintained. With the service to Vancouver the night boat, on which it was freely rumored cabins were shared more often by unmarried than married couples, also was withdrawn.
The Empress also suffered from new concepts of travel, including the use of trailers, and a different vehicles. A motor hotel was established and in 1968 it was frenquently announced that the Empress would close down. But instead the ·i owners decided on a $3,000,000 modernization program. Increased parking facilities cut down the area of the beautiful lawns and gardens. There was talk that even what remained of them might be used for a convention center. Whatever the future the Empress Hotel has been a boon to Victoria architecturally and economically. Since its inception more than 700,000 guests have stayed there. An even greater attraction from a numerical standpoint have been the Butchart Gardens.
The 25 acres of carefully tended gardens attract more visitors each year and in 1969 were visited by about 250,000 people. The gardens were the happy inspiration of Mrs. Jennie Butchart, whose husband Robert was a pioneer of the Saanich Inlet cement industry. His first limestone crushing mill was on the site of the Gardens, about 15 miles from Victoria and he quarried limestone in the immediate vicinity. Mrs. Butchart decided to create beauty in the despoiled quarrying area. Mr. and Mrs. Butchart at the tum of the century brought in hundreds of tons of soil and many thousands of plants. The plants, protected from winds by the towering quarry walls, thrived in their new location. Mrs. Butchart called her gardens "Benvenuto" and before Victoria grew to its present size the gardens were open free of charge to any visitor and available for charitable functions.
The King and Queen of Siam and Eleanor Roosevelt were entertained at "Benvenuto." Robert Butchart died in 1943 and his widow in 1950. Meanwhile, however, Ian Ross, a grandson, had taken charge. He still further embellished the gardens, increasing their area, installing illuminations and a beautiful fountain. But with increasing labor costs the gardens in the post-war years did not find it easy going. In 1939 they were offered to the Provincial Government for the nominal sum of $1.00, but the government refused the offer. The gardens are Victoria's most genuine and outstanding tourist attraction besides being a great amenity for local residents. Especially in the 1960's they stood in pleasant contrast to the numerous, sometimes phony attractions created to exploit the tourist.
Still almost hidden among the trees at one end of the gardens can be seen the smokestacks of the mill to which Butchart Gardens owe their origin. Another innovation pleasing to tourists and residents was first seen in 1913. In that year cluster lights replaced the old lamp standards. Hanging flower baskets were added soon afterwards and gave the city a pleasingly unique atmosphere. The cluster lights were not popular at first and were known as Morley's Folly after A. J. Morley, the mayor of 1913. The Empress Hotel, the Butchart Gardens and the fine homes and gardens of the well-to-do began to change radically the character of the City. Gone was the drive of the 1890's. The energetic businessmen-politicians began to fade into the background. In their place a new type of resident emerged ... more interested in the amenities of living than making a living.
The Empress Hotel got its quota of permanent guests, some of them well-heeled elderly ladies who could obtain there all the benefits of comfortable living without the headaches of household management. Remittance men in knickerbockers and brogues found Victoria a place where their pound sterling went a long way, Canada being a tax free country. Here they could enjoy at a fraction of the cost in England their golf, racing, club and social life and watch cricket, croquet and other spectator sports like racing, hockey and soccer. Many Americans began to live here, some of them U.S. citizens of British descent who still had a nostalgic affection for the Royal Navy and the Union Jack. Victoria's old-established successful families like the descendants of the Barnards, Dunsmuirs and Rithets now had time and money to spare.
Some of them like Jack Rithet, son of the famous R. P. Rithet, speedily spent a lot of what their fathers had made. Jack, who lived at "Gisburn" on Rockland Avenue, lost $30,000 on a baseball park he promoted on land where the Crystal Garden now stands. The Willows race track was a great attraction. There in 1913 was held a 60-day race meet which was not surpassed until the British Empire Games came to Vancouver in 1954. The Sidney"Sandown" races in the 1960's were very small in comparison with the former events at the Willows course. The Willows was also famous for its athletics. The 1913 meet featured many athletes from San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, New Westminster and Medicine Hat who had taken part in the Olympic Games in Stockholm the year before. The U.S. cruiser West Virginia was in port for the occasion.
Hal Beasley was Victoria's hero of the series, winning the 100-yard dash in 9.8 seconds, equalling the then world record. Rugby was another popular sport. New Zealand's "All Blacks" met the pick of Victoria at Oak Bay (now Windsor) Park in 1914. Among the Victoria team were the Gillespie brothers, Grant brothers, Carew Martin and a fleet young three-quarter, Peter Ogden. A heavy tackle grounded Ogden and he died on the way to hospital. Lacrosse also attracted large crowds. Vancouver promoter Con Jones sponsored a team with headquarters at Oak Bay Park. Among amateurs who turned pro to play with the club were Byron Johnson (later premier), Joe Dakers and "Cotton" Brynjolfson. The year 1909 saw the opening of the Victoria Lawn Bowling Club at Beacon Hill Park, its first president being W. Oliphant (after whom the street is named). The club produced in 1911 its first singles champion in R. E. Dunn, who later became president.
The Victoria Hunt Club staged capital runs in Colwood and Cadboro Bay. The James Bay Athletic Association, formed in 1881 primarily as a rowing club, had its boathouse at the foot of Menzies Street. Cricket was popular both as a spectator and participatory sport. The Maple Leaves, Junior Columbians and Royal Navy teams played regularly at Beacon Hill and fans were fond of recalling that the first cricket club in Victoria, the Pioneer Cricket Club, was formed in 1858 with Thomas (later mayor) Harris as president. In 1911 Victoria got its first introduction to what has since become a local passion ... hockey. The first artificial ice rink in Canada was built on Epworth Street and Cadboro Bay Road, now the site of Cranmore Court Apartment. Builder was a Nelson lumber magnate, Joseph Patrick, who with his two hockey-playing sons, Lester and Frank, decided to popularize the sport here.
Their faith was justified. More than 1,000 skaters, some of whom had never skated before, turned up on opening day, Christmas Day 1911. Until the Arena was destroyed by fire in 1929 it saw many great events, the greatest of which was the Stanley Cup final between the Montreal Canadiens and Lester Patrick's Cougars. In four games the Cougars triumphed. It was the only time the Stanley Cup had been won by a Vancouver Island team. At this Arena was played the first professional hockey game west of Toronto and the first professional hockey game ever played on artificial ice - on January 2, 1912. Contestants were the Victoria Aristocrats and New Westminster Royals. Hon. T. W. Paterson, Lieutenant-Governor, faced off the puck.
The Aristocrats lost 8-3. Before the season ended arrangements had been made for the first attempt to inaugurate a world series for hockey, similar to that in the United States for baseball. Lester Patrick brought an all-star team from the East to play the All-Stars from the Coast League. The Coast All-Stars won the series. The next year, when the Aristocrats won the Coast League title, Quebec, the eastern champions, came here for the playoffs. By 1914 this competition had advanced to the stage where the Stanley Cup was put up for competition between the Western and Eastern champions. The Aristocrats again being coast champions went to Toronto and played and lost in the first world series. It may be noted that while Joseph Patrick could claim to have pioneered professional ice-skating, where roller skating is concerned the Indians were 50 years ahead.
In the 1860's a syndicate of Indians started a roller-skating rink on the site of the present E. & N. Station. They built the roller track in the middle of a large "store" they erected. This store, according to contemporary reports, was the scene of "extraordinary carousals by day and orgies by night." After the burning down of the Arena in 1929 Barney Olson, who later bought the Strathcona Hotel, came on the scene. During the Second World War he converted the Horse Show Building at the old Willows Fair Grounds into an Arena and the greatest amateur hockey ever seen in the West was played there with Army, Navy and Air Force teams.
Victoria's increasing appetite for sport resulted in 1893 in the formation of the Victoria Yacht Club (now R.V.Y.C.) with G. A. McTavish as its first commodore and first moorings at the foot of Kingston Street. The Yacht Club started with 100 members compared with nearly goo today, and at one time had moorings at No. 12 Wharf Street near the James Bay Rowing Club. It moved to its present location in the Uplands in 1912, the site being that of a former slaughter house. Proliferating sporting activities towards the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries evidenced that Victoria had emerged from the hand-to-mouth economy of the pioneers. There was the Baseball Club with its home field in the Oak Bay Park in the 1890's and which featured Hal Chase as one of the greatest first basemen of all time.
Baseball made headway in spite of the cynicism of English-orientated sporting fans who considered it an effeminate game. One of the local boys was Bernie Schwengers who could play any position and was a terrific hitter. He later became Canadian singles tennis champion and member of the Canadian Davis Cup team. Oak Bay Park also had the honour of staging the 1913 Ladysmith- Nanaimo soccer final. Oak Bay was chosen because the fans were too partisan to permit of play in either Ladysmith or Nanaimo. Golf in Victoria began as early as 1887 with the nine-hole course of the United Services Club at Macaulay Point and the Victoria Golf Club came into play in 1893. The turn of the century saw the advent of the motor car.
It was a hobby for the rich and sporting fraternity. Most people had to be content with bicycle, tramcar, cab or horseback. The first auto here belonged to Dr. E. C. Hart who covered five miles from his home on Cadboro Bay Road to Macaulay Point in 17 minutes in 1903. The city's second car is believed to be that of A. E. Todd- a steam auto purchased from the White Sewing Machine Co. of Cleveland. David Russell Ker (of Brackman-Ker) got a French Tonihan in 1903 and in 1904 a Rambler. Reason for the purchase of the Rambler was that the Tonihan wouldn't go. By 1905 the car-owning fraternity had 17 members. Among them were A. E. Todd, Dr. Hart, Captain Troup (of C.P. Steamships), R. P. Butchart, David Boscowitz, David Ker, T. B. Brayshaw (Brayshaw's carriage works) and Thomas Plimley, who operated a bicycle shop.
R. P. Butchart paid $4,500 (at today's equivalents about $30,000) for his "Thomas Flyer" in 1906. It was reported to be capable of the "fantastic" speed of 40 m.p.h. and the Colonist, announcing its arrival added that Seppell & Troup, the Victoria Garage, "are putting it in running order." Lumberman J. A. Sayward had a 12 h.p. Franklin with polished brass mountings ... a luxury which caused admirers to gape. Most of these men were the charter members of the Victoria Automobile Club, now incorporated in the B.C.A.A. and Canadian A.A. In 1905 David Russell Ker and Captain Troup shipped their cars to Cobble Hill (the Patricia Bay highway was not built until 1912), motored to Nanaimo where they picked up friends from Vancouver and continued on to Comox. A year later the Victoria Garage Co. imported for tally-ho (excursion) purposes a car to seat 25 people.
Beach Drive then as now was the favorite local excursion for motorists, but the surface of the Drive was very different. It was narrow, sandy and potholed so motorists probably did not find the 6 m.p.h. city speed limit too onerous. Victoria's oldest road transport company, C. & C. Transportation Services started up in 1900. Owners were Cameron and Caldwell (C and C); many years later the concern was bought by Rawlings and Rhodes, both of whom were killed on a flight over Nitinat Lake in 1960. After brief ownership by the Nordal family, C. & C. became part of Vancouver Island Coach Lines in 1969. But Victoria had a great deal to off er besides outdoor activities for residents of modest means.
Many of the city's newer residents came from the Orient where they had been accustomed to domestic servants. The Chinese here enabled them to maintain their living standards at only slight additional cost. To maintain such standards in England on their retirement in- come would have been most difficult. At the same time they could enjoy educated society among people of British descent whose views on Empire coincided very much with their own. Their wives could afford to have their own dressmakers. The cost of living was moderate, there were many good family hotels like the Roccabella at Humboldt and Blanshard where one could stay for a month or a year amidst pleasant surroundings. Rents were low. A good house and lot in the Rock Bay area could be bought for $875. Indeed for such people Victoria, in spite of or perhaps because of the fact that it lacked the aggressiveness of larger cities was a very pleasant place in which to live.