wharf street victoria, bc
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In a small park on the west side of Wharf Street, opposite the foot of Fort Street
From a muddy trail fronting Fort Victoria, this street changed with the maturing city. In the 1850s, Hudson’s Bay Co. ships loaded furs while moored to the shore. In the 1860s, gold seekers lured by ‘Cariboo’ landed here. In the 1890s, the street pulsated with crews of sealing fleet schooners and miners bound for the Klondike. Now only quiet buildings recall the hectic days.
In 1858 Wharf Street was transformed from a muddy trail to a bustling thoroughfare as thousands of gold seekers on their way to the Fraser River set up tents outside the walls of Fort Victoria. Also in this year Amor de Cosmos started publication of his soon-to-be famous newspaper, the British Colonist, in one of Wharf Street’s hastily erected shops. Later, during the Cariboo gold rush, the Enterprise Wharf was built to accommodate the steamboats carrying miners up the Fraser to New Westminster and Yale. Until Vancouver surpassed Victoria in 1898, the docks and warehouses along Wharf Street were very busy because Victoria was the primary port of entry for all ships coming to BC.
Wharf Street was the location a variety of businesses including: navigation companies, ship chandlers, shops, warehouses, hotels & saloons. Commercial Row on the 1700-block of Wharf Street was built in the early 1860s and is one of the city’s oldest commercial structures. The former Custom House (now called the Malahat Building) at 1002 Wharf Street was built in 1875 as one of the first federal government buildings built in Victoria after BC became a province of Canada in 1871. During the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1890s long queues of miners lined up in front of the Custom House to obtain the licenses needed to enter the Yukon.

A very prominent building is the Dogwood Building (formerly the Pither and Leiser warehouse) built in 1905 at 1019 Wharf Street. Oriiginally a provisions and liquor warehouse, it saw a lot of action during BC’s short-lived Prohibition (1916-1921) when there was a steady turn-over of the stock in this building as alcohol was still available by prescription. During the longer period of Probition in the USA (1919-1933) liquor was smuggled to the US via ships which were loaded along Wharf Street’s docks. Canadian ships out of Victoria that were involved with such business are said to have made up to one million dollars each trip.