About Us (Camas)
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Park History
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101 - 1041 Richardson St
Victoria, BC
V8V 3C6
(250) 380-5023

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Friends of Beacon Hill Park
Park Pre-history (Easter Lilies) Park Present and Past (Shooting Star) Park History 1900's (Trillium) Park History 1800's (Death Camas)


Beacon Hill Park in the 1800's

1800's Timeline

The final year of Lekwammen (Songhees) control of the land. These aboriginal people--a sub-group of the Coast Salish--actively shaped the landscape by cultivating camas and other native plants for food. Their land management practices created the open meadows admired by the British.
Fort Victoria was constructed by the Hudson's Bay Company. From the first, white traders and settlers referred to the area now known as Beacon Hill Park as "the park." They grazed cattle and sheep in the park and let their pigs dig up the Lekwammen's camas roots.
The British government granted control of Vancouver Island to the Hudson's Bay Company. In return, Chief Factor James Douglas was directed to divide land for private sale and to designate Public Reserves according to the Wakefield system of colonization. The Park became one of those required reserves.  
Douglas "purchased" the entire Victoria region "forever" from the Lekwammen for 371 blankets and a cap.
Douglas purchased about 24 acres of the northeast corner of the Park for himself, adding it to Fairfield Farm, his adjoining property.  
The Beacon Hill area was labeled a "Park Reserve" on official maps.  
On February 23, 1859, Beacon Hill Park was officially designated a public park. Britain took over control of Vancouver Island from the Hudson's Bay Company  
Private purchasers were allowed to keep another eight acres of Park land cut out of the northeast corner and sold to them illegally by the Hudson's Bay Company.  
Beacon Hill Park was transferred to the City of Victoria in Trust on February 21, 1882 "to be maintained and preserved...for the use, recreation and enjoyment of the public."  
A landmark decision was handed down by Chief Justice Sir Matthew B. Begbie on August 30, 1884. He ruled an Agricultural Hall built in the Park was an improper use under the Trust. The Begbie decision has been a useful precedent ever since in excluding commercial developments and keeping Park land open for public use.  
Fountain Lake was constructed by the Park Keeper and his assistant. The first bandstand was built. These improvements were in place before the Blair Plan was used to develop the Park.  
A Beacon Hill Park landscape design competition was won by Henry J. Cresswell. His plan was quietly shelved almost immediately in favour of hiring John Blair. Under Blair's direction, Goodacre Lake and the Stone Bridge were constructed. Several roads were built through the Park. Against strong opposition, a road was built up the Hill.
The zoo began in 1889. Deer were among the first animals in the 1889 zoo and a deer was the last zoo manmal to leave the Park in 1990, one hundred years later.