James Bay is the oldest residential neighborhood in Victoria. And Heather Street is one of the oldest streets in James Bay. Some of these houses were built before indoor plumbing or electricity had arrived.
Sir James Douglas and the Raccoons
You may have heard about Sir James Douglas, the founder of of Victoria (1843) and later governor of British Columbia. Some time back in the mid-1800's Parliament passed a special law granting Sir James Douglas and all his descendants a "right of way" along a corridor leading from the Douglas property up to parliament. It so happens this corridor cuts directly through our back yard. We have on occasion seen a family of raccoons wander through, but nary a Douglas.
Across Heather street from us you will see a pair of old twins. These two houses were built around the 1880's, before the days of indoor plumbing. On the south wall of the left-most twin are the drain pipes from when plumbing was added. Our plumber noticed these pipes one day and commented that they are located on the south wall for a reason. "The sun helps keep the pipes from freezing in winter." The right-hand twin also has an interesting story. It was in the same family between 1882 - 2007.
The "Oldest" Home in James Bay
Two doors down from the twins is 438 Heather. Technically this is the "oldest" home in James Bay. You don't have to look too close to see it's a new home. In 2006-07 it was completely renovated. It was originally a pioneer home from when this part of the city was Hudson's Bay farmland, circa 1850. During the renovation an archivist was allowed in to recover some of the wall paper. It was later reported they collected 22 layers. I can hardly imagine it.
A Narrow Street
Heather street started life in the days of the horse and carriage. In the late 1800's wooden sidewalks were installed. By the 1950's the arrival of the automobile could not longer be ignored. The sidewalks were removed to make room for cars. Or more precisely, a car. The road is only wide enough for one car. Horse traffic is still a common sight today. Indeed, our street was recently the site of a traffic jam. It all began when three horse carriages arrived at once. The horse carriages are wonderful. They help impress a slower pace of life on the street.
Our little street has been named five times. It was the Beckley Farm Road, around when the population of Victoira was 262 people. Later in the late 1800's it was named Prince's street. Then due to common misspelling it became Princess Street. Next it was renamed Helmcken Street, so called after Sir James Douglas's son-in-law. Then we finally came to rest on Heather Street. City Hall had exhausted itself. There is no record of why "Heather" was chosen or why the names were changed. Heather is a nice name, but not ideal for a street. Every time "Heather" gets a new boy friend, our street sign goes missing. Usually two or three times a year. But no one is complaining to City Hall. Mummm's the word.
427 Heather Street
Victoria, B.C., Canada
V8V 2K1 street map
Not suitable for children under 12