Despite the name of my blog, it is not too often that I talk about sidewalks specifically. The last time may have been the post I wrote on my trip to Ensenada, Mexico and its sidewalk traps. Yet, right here in Victoria we have one of the most interesting sidewalks you can find, on Government Street.
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If you have walked the tourist strip of Government Street between Broughton and Bastion Square, you may have noticed a double-thick line of bricks with names on it that along its path has some pretty interesting features which reveal why they are there. What you are seeing with these bricks is the locations of the original walls and structures of Fort Victoria and the names in the bricks are a listing of over two thousand of original settlers in city. (It should be noted that the names are not a listing of those that lived in the fort but settlers going into the early 20th Century). This whole project is known as the Fort Victoria Brick Project.
Likely the best place to start a walk along the pathway of the old walls of the fort is at Artina's Jewellery . If you look at the front of the store, you will see a strip of bricks coming right out of the door and then making a quick left hand turn to the north. The old wall cuts right through the outside patio of the Bard and Banker pub and then on the corner of Fort and Government you will see a gap with a brass circle on either side. This was the gate for the fort and is why Fort Street has its name, as it led directly to the entrance of the Fort.
The wall continues up Government past Munro's Books and Murchie's Tea Shop two bricks thick with a name on each. If you want to see if you can find a specific one, the Fort Victoria Brick Project has a complete listing.
The work for the brick project was completed as part of the revitalisation of Government Street in the 1970's. This included reducing the street to two lanes and making it a one way street that had reduced barriers between the pedestrian and vehicle realm. While there is a continued debate as to whether the revitalisation of the street has been successful, the introduction of the history of the fort added a layer that otherwise would have been lost to time.
As you walk to towards the entrance to Bastion Square, the bricks take on a more elaborate octagonal shape, with a large plaque for the Hudson's Bay Company in the centre. This is an outline of the bastion for the fort which would have provided protection to it from the north and east. Nanaimo still has the bastion from its fort which would have been a similar structure.
The bricks take a turn to the left into Bastion Square here. As you walk down towards the harbour the bricks continue across Langley Street. Unfortunately, the city has seemed to have let the last part of the line of bricks fall into disrepair with some gaps and replacement bricks put in. As you get about halfway through the lower part of Bastion Square, the bricks take another left hand turn and come to an end at the beautiful Board of Trade Building.
Just as the bricks make their turn there is a beautiful Camperdown Elm, which I will be honest, until I was taking pictures for this post, I had not read the plaque for.
While the bricks give an ephemeral life to the fort, the bricks have actually been in place for almost twice as long as the actual fort was!
Hope you enjoy the tour!