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Walk through James Bay, Victoria, BC

My favorite area in Victoria is James Bay. There is nothing like it if you like old style funkiness, that is English style architecture of the late 1800s and early 1900s mimicked in wood. The area is unique in its appearance. Other areas show mansions built by the established rich and the nouveau riche. This area was built and inhabited by working class people from professionals to artisans, influenced and inspired as far as I can see it by the English, totally. Everything is close which helps to make it a real community and an area perfect for walking. When first I came to these shores the area looked well past its prime, but in the nineteen eighties it went through a total upgrade. I think the Victoria Heritage Foundation was behind this development. It was definitely and pretty near completely face lifted. Since then preservation and new development have both been active in the James Bay area, and old and new stand now side by side.
The next house was slated for destruction until the neighbourhood reacted against it, but its future is still uncertain according to one of the locals.
The new is everywhere and where it stands you may be assured that some of the old pieces of art have gone by the wayside. I would imagine that a few of the old houses were perhaps not salvageable, others were left to deteriorate before being torn down and, I believe, some of the houses were moved to other locations
Basically where ever one looks the new is always in sight and the old shows itself like a jewel in that setting.
Every house has a story and here are just a few samples out of countless very photogenic structures. The next two photographs are of a house showing a Queen Anne form and the plans are probably taken, according to Volume 2 of THIS OLD HOUSE, from a pattern book. Looking at an original photo I notice that the top floor windows are totally different now. The inside has been turned into apartments which means change there also. No idea how the original style has been maintained. The house was worked on just to save it in 1983 and more work happened in 2003.

When I need to be in Victoria for more than a day or just as a short getaway, my wife and I stay at the James Bay Inn. We opt for a heritage room on the top floor where we have our views. It is located in the heart of James Bay within easy walking distance from downtown Victoria, Dallas Road and the Pacific, and beautiful Beacon Hill Park. The building itself was built in 1911 as a rooming house and this is where Emily Carr spent the final part of her life and died.
Here is an early morning view from one of the room’s windows.
As an afterthought and a tip for local history buffs I like to mention the Crown Bookstore (I think that is its true name) on Government Street behind the Parliament Buildings. It is closing down either this month or next month after which it goes online. We stopped there on our way out of Victoria this past Wednesday. The Victoria Heritage Foundation has a series of books published, called THIS OLD HOUSE, with a volume for every area of Victoria. Only a few areas are available in the store for $25.00 with a 40% discount. We walked out with the James Bay volume and now want to get back there to get a copy of some of the other neighbourhoods if still available. This book has every house documented with history of owners, building styles, etc including stories about the houses that have disappeared. It is incredibly complete and detailed and the making of it must have been a labor of love.
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4 responses to “Walk through James Bay, Victoria, BC

  1. ehpem

    This is a great post – it is interesting to see how the new buildings creep into the background everywhere. I used to live in James Bay, and it just seems normal to me. But seeing it in your photos is a reminder of what has been lost, but also of the vibrant nature of the neighbourhood which looks both to the past and the future.

  2. wolke205

    The photos #2 , #4 & #5 are great. I love the architecture of the houses 🙂

    • Joseph de Lange ⋅

      Yes the building styles were very much inspired by the English styles of the time, but executed with local materials, which gave them some kind of originality all their own.

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