The Port of Victoria overlooks the Juan de Fuca Strait from the southeastern end of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. Capital of British Columbia, the Port of Victoria is about 100 nautical miles south-southwest of the Port of Vancouver and about 120 kilometers northwest of the Port of Seattle in Washington, United States. In 2006, over 78 thousand people lived in the Port of Victoria, and more than 330 thousand called the metropolitan area home.
The Port of Victoria was established by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1843 as a fur-trade post, making it one of the oldest towns in the province. An important tourist destination, the Port of Victoria hosts over 3.6 million visitors each year, many arriving on cruise vessels that stop at the Port of Victoria's Ogden Point Terminal.
The Port of Victoria's economy is based on technology, services, tourism, government, and education. The Canadian Forces Maritime Command is located nearby at Esquimalt. Other important economic sectors in the Port of Victoria include banking and finance, manufacturing of food products light aircraft. High-tech firms involved in pharmaceuticals, computers, architecture, telecommunications, and engineering are an important and growing part of the local economy.
Before Europeans arrived in the Port of Victoria, the indigenous Coast Salish peoples inhabited the area. In the late 18th Century, Spanish and British explorers began to arrive. In 1774, Juan Perez visited the island, and Captain James Cook came to the area in 1778. Spanish sailors came to the Esquimalt Harbour in the early 1790s.
In 1843, the Hudson's Bay Company built a trading post at the native Camosack site, moving its fort at Vancouver to Vancouver Island. Calling it Fort Albert for a short time, it was renamed Fort Victoria in honor of the British queen. The indigenous Songhees created a village across the harbor that was later moved to the north. The Hudson's Bay Company received a Royal Grant in 1849 giving it ownership of all of Vancouver Island on the condition that the island be colonized.
The crown Colony of Vancouver Island was established in 1849, and the town site for the Port of Victoria was laid out as the colonial capital. In 1850, Richard Blanshard became the Governor of the Colony of Vancouver Island, the first Crown Colony west of the Great Lakes.
By 1853, 450 people lived in the new Port of Victoria settlement, and their lives centered on the activities of the Hudson's Bay Company. In 1858, gold was discovered on the mainland of British Columbia, and Victoria grew quickly as a port, outfitting center, and supply base for miners traveling to the Fraser Canyon gold fields from California and Australia. The town's population boomed in just a few days from 500 to 5000.
The first ship bringing these new adventurers, the Commodore, arrived at the Port of Victoria in April with 450 men. Within weeks, more than 20 thousand gold prospectors had landed at the Port of Victoria. Tents rose around the fort and across the Bay. At the beginning of the gold boom, city lots cost $25 each. A week later, they were eagerly snatched up for $3,000.
After the excitement of the gold rush waned, it became too expensive to maintain the separate colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia. Vancouver Island was united with the mainland in 1866. Initially, both New Westminster and the Port of Victoria were capitals of the united colony.
The Port of Victoria was made the provincial capital when the province joined the Canadian Confederation in 1871 as the sixth province in the Dominion of Canada. Incorporated as a city in 1862, it became the home of the Royal Navy's North Pacific fleet in 1865.
In 1886, the Canadian Pacific Railway terminus was completed at Burrard Inlet in Vancouver, and the Port of Victoria's status as the province's commercial center was lost to its rival city. In response, the citizens of the Port of Victoria began to cultivate an image of gentility and civilization. This image was supported by the visit of Rudyard Kipling, the 1904 opening of the Butchart Gardens, and the opening of the Empress Hotel in 1908.
The boom of development that had blessed the Port of Victoria for decades ended before World War I. With limited new building, the city's inventory of Edwardian buildings and homes gave the Port of Victoria its current appeal. During this period, many of the surrounding municipalities were incorporated into the Port of Victoria.
Since the end of World War II, growth has been steady in the Port of Victoria. Since the 1980s, western suburbs have been incorporated into the city. Today, the urban area is governed by 13 different municipalities within what is called the Capital Regional District. Occasional calls for amalgamation of these governments has met with resistance from residents that want local autonomy.
During the 20th Century, the Port of Victoria was primarily a city for government, tourism, and retirement, although it was also home to Canada's western naval base and a large fishing fleet. As the 20th Century ended, ship building and repair, forest products, and machine manufacturing grew as major employers in the Port of Victoria. Today, the city is developing as a center for marine, forestry, and agricultural research.
The modern Port of Victoria is proud of its British heritage. It is an attractive town with wonderful homes and neighborhoods, an historic downtown, and many parks with an inviting environment and atmosphere.
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