Nineteenth-century B.C. history isn't usually big on camels, but the iconic ungulates most often associated with Arabia were just one of many intriguing aspects to the history of Old Esquimalt Road, now up for registration as the "the oldest planned road in Western Canada."
On what is now the site of the Esquimalt Inn, the Halfway House for weary travellers opened in 1860 fronting on Old Esquimalt. A year later it became one of the first public houses in B.C. to receive a brewing licence.
"The Halfway gained some notoriety when camels destined for the [Cariboo] gold fields were kept in the paddocks off Old Esquimalt Road - even more so with the birth of three calves during their time there," says the statement of significance submitted to Esquimalt council to add the road to the municipal heritage registry.
The camels arrived in Esquimalt via San Francisco on the merchant ship, the Brother Jonathan, destined for the Cariboo.
But the animals were kept in the Halfway House paddock and trotted down Old Esquimalt Road to Victoria to be barged to the Mainland, said Esquimalt volunteer archivist Sherri Robinson.
The Halfway was a big-time brewer in its day, making more than 200 Imperial pints at a time, she added.
Other defining characteristics of Old Esquimalt Road's heritage value include:
The site where Joseph Despard Pemberton, whose name is found on two Victoria streets, surveyed the original Esquimalt boundaries.
St. Joseph's Mission, now gone, was the first Catholic Church in B.C., just west of current Memorial Park.
Father Charles Pandosy performed the first baptism of a First Nation child in B.C., naming her Mary.
Lampson Street School, built at the junction of Old Esquimalt Road in 1903, is among the oldest schools still open in the Capital Region, now used for Ecole Victor Brodeur.
The presence of a Garry oak meadow near the confluence of Lampson and Head streets before merging into Wilson Street.
© Copyright 2013