Established in 1858, Victoria’s Chinatown is the oldest Chinese community in Canada, and the second-oldest on the west coast of North America. Only San Francisco’s Chinatown is older, and early inhabitants of each enclave settled in North America for the same reason: proximity to the gold fields of the interior, and, later on , railroad construction. Early Chinese immigrants to Victoria arrived in the city at a time when the Crown colony of Vancouver Island played a far greater role in the economic, cultural and political affairs of what would be the province of British Columbia. Victoria was the first landing after the long ocean voyage across the Pacific, and while some early Chinese migrants sought their fortune in the Interior, many also put down roots in Victoria’s Chinatown.
Originally a collection of crude huts along Store Street, Chinatown blossomed into a thriving cultural center that is one of the true gems of contemporary downtown Victoria. Besides traditional red-brick architecture, Chinatown grew steadily over the years until its peak in 1911, at which time it occupied an area of about six city blocks in the north end of downtown Victoria.
Chinatown today features a wide variety of Chinese restaurants serving everything from basic noodle dishes to Dim Sum and haute cuisine. This Victoria neighbourhood is also home to art galleries, coffee shops, and some of the best quality produce sold in Victoria. The street is lined with distinctive red pines that provide a beautiful accompaniment to a brisk fall or winter day with blue skies and fast-moving clouds.
The district is a designation National Historic Site which was considered as potential addition to Canada’s Tentative List of nominations to become a World Heritage Site, but was not nominated as of the latest additions in 2004.
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