Victory Square, Vancouver

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Victory Square

Vic square wires.jpg

Victory Square park, Vancouver
Type Public Park
Location Vancouver, British Columbia
Coordinates 49°16′55.56″N123°06′36.72″W / 49.2821000°N 123.1102000°W / 49.2821000; -123.1102000 Coordinates: 49°16′55.56″N123°06′36.72″W / 49.2821000°N 123.1102000°W / 49.2821000; -123.1102000
Area 0.9 acres (0.36 ha)
Created 1886
Operated by City of Vancouver

Victory Square is a park in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The square is bordered by West Hastings Street to the northeast, West Pender Street to the southwest, Cambie Street to the southeast, and Hamilton Street to the northwest. The term is also used to refer to the neighbourhood immediately surrounding the square.

Vancouver City in British Columbia, Canada

Vancouver is a coastal seaport city in western Canada, located in the Lower Mainland region of British Columbia. As the most populous city in the province, the 2016 census recorded 631,486 people in the city, up from 603,502 in 2011. The Greater Vancouver area had a population of 2,463,431 in 2016, making it the third-largest metropolitan area in Canada. Vancouver has the highest population density in Canada with over 5,400 people per square kilometre, which makes it the fifth-most densely populated city with over 250,000 residents in North America behind New York City, Guadalajara, San Francisco, and Mexico City according to the 2011 census. Vancouver is one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse cities in Canada according to that census; 52% of its residents have a first language other than English. Roughly 30% of the city's inhabitants are of Chinese heritage. Vancouver is classed as a Beta global city.

British Columbia Province of Canada

British Columbia is the westernmost province of Canada, located between the Pacific Ocean and the Rocky Mountains. With an estimated population of 5.016 million as of 2018, it is Canada's third-most populous province.

Canada Country in North America

Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering 9.98 million square kilometres, making it the world's second-largest country by total area. Canada's southern border with the United States is the world's longest bi-national land border. Its capital is Ottawa, and its three largest metropolitan areas are Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. As a whole, Canada is sparsely populated, the majority of its land area being dominated by forest and tundra. Consequently, its population is highly urbanized, with over 80 percent of its inhabitants concentrated in large and medium-sized cities, many near the southern border. Canada's climate varies widely across its vast area, ranging from arctic weather in the north, to hot summers in the southern regions, with four distinct seasons.




Victory Square was at one time the grounds of the city's provincial courthouse, which was torn down in 1911–13 when the new Francis Rattenbury-designed courthouse on Georgia Street was opened (now the Vancouver Art Gallery). The location had significance when it was chosen, as it stands at the intersection of the old Granville townsite (aka Gastown) and the CPR Townsite, which was the downtown-designated land grant obtained by the CPR as part of the deal to locate the terminus and thereby found the city (the corner of Hastings and Hamilton is the northern tip of the CPR Townsite). An area of 0.9 acres (3,600 m2) out of the 480 acres (1.9 km2) allotted to the CPR was held aside as "Government Square" on February 13, 1886. The southwest corner of Hamilton and Hastings Streets is where L. A. Hamilton drove the first survey stake to commence laying out the street system for the city.

Francis Rattenbury Canadian architect

Francis Mawson Rattenbury was a British architect, although most of his career was spent in British Columbia, Canada, where he designed many notable buildings. Divorced amid scandal, he was murdered in England at the age of 67 by his second wife's lover.

Georgia Street

Georgia Street is an east–west street in the cities of Vancouver and Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. Its section in Downtown Vancouver, designated West Georgia Street, serves as one of the primary streets for the financial and central business districts, and is the major transportation corridor connecting downtown Vancouver with the North Shore by way of the Lions Gate Bridge. The remainder of the street, known as East Georgia Street between Main Street and Boundary Road and simply Georgia Street within Burnaby, is more residential in character, and is discontinuous at several points.

Vancouver Art Gallery Art gallery in British Columbia, Canada

The Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) is the fifth-largest art gallery in Canada, and the largest in Western Canada. It is located at 750 Hornby Street in Vancouver, British Columbia. Its permanent collection of about 11,000 artworks includes more than 200 major works by Emily Carr, the Group of Seven, Jeff Wall, Harry Callahan and Marc Chagall.

Boyd & Clendenning were contracted by the CPR to begin felling the forest at a rate of $26 per acre and an extra $2 per acre for lopping off large branches. A tangled mass soon built up to 20 feet (6.1 m) thick that was to be the kindling for the great fire that leveled the townsite. [1]

Police dispersing a demonstration of the unemployed, July, 1932. VictorySquare 1932.jpg
Police dispersing a demonstration of the unemployed, July, 1932.
Victory Square aerial, taken from Harbour Centre Lookout. WHastings V square.jpg
Victory Square aerial, taken from Harbour Centre Lookout.

It was down the park's hillside that the clearing crews of the CPR entered Gastown a few steps ahead of the firestorm that destroyed the city on June 13, 1886, heading for their quarters in the Regina Hotel at Cambie and Water where they had themselves stored water and wetted blankets as safety precaution (it was the only building in that part of the city to survive the fire). Until that year, however, the site of Victory Square as with all of the downtown peninsula outside of Gastown had been dense west coast rainforest, with trees standing in dark, thick groves hundreds of feet high and also a small creek (now vanished).

Cambie Street street in Vancouver, Canada

Cambie Street is a street in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It is named for Henry John Cambie, chief surveyor of the Canadian Pacific Railway's western division.

The Cenotaph and the Old Courthouse

On the northern side of the square, on a plaza flanking Hastings Street, lies the Vancouver war memorial, the Victory Square Cenotaph. The cenotaph is approximately 30 feet (9.1 m) tall, and is a triangular edifice whose shape conforms to that of the square. The pillar is of Nelson Island granite engraved with suitable inscriptions, and is kept continuously banked high with wreaths of flowers and adorned with national flags.

Cenotaph "empty tomb" or monument erected in honor of a person whose remains are elsewhere

A cenotaph is an empty tomb or a monument erected in honour of a person or group of people whose remains are elsewhere. It can also be the initial tomb for a person who has since been reinterred elsewhere. Although the vast majority of cenotaphs honour individuals, many noted cenotaphs are instead dedicated to the memories of groups of individuals, such as the lost soldiers of a country or of an empire.

Nelson Island (British Columbia) island in British Columbia, Canada

Nelson Island is an island in the Sunshine Coast region of the South Coast region of British Columbia. It is surrounded by Hotham Sound, Agamemnon Channel, and Malaspina Strait. The closest communities are Pender Harbour, British Columbia and Egmont, both on the Sechelt Peninsula.

The Cenotaph was unveiled by William Reid Owen, Mayor of Vancouver, in the presence of an assemblage of 25,000 persons; naval, military and civilian, and including the Old Contemptibles, 7th British Columbia, 29th Vancouver, 72nd Seaforths, 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles, 47th New Westminster, and 102nd North British Columbian Battalions, C.E.F., and others, on Sunday, 27 April 1924. It was dedicated by Hon. Major the Rev. Cecil C. Owen, M.B.E., V.D., D.D., chaplain of the 29th (Vancouver) Battalion, C.E.F.

William Reid Owen Canadian mayor

William Reid Owen was the 20th mayor of Vancouver, British Columbia in 1924. He was born in Ontario and moved to Vancouver in 1899.

The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaughts Own)

The British Columbia Regiment is a Primary Reserve armoured reconnaissance (recce) regiment of the Canadian Army; the regiment is subordinate to 39 Canadian Brigade Group of the 3rd Canadian Division. Established in 1883, it is the oldest military unit in Vancouver, British Columbia. It parades at the Beatty Street Drill Hall at the corner of Dunsmuir and Beatty in downtown Vancouver. The regiment has been variously designated as garrison artillery, rifles, infantry, and armoured, but has been reconnaissance since 1965. It has received 41 battle honours in its history, and has been a unit of the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps since 1942.

The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada infantry regiment of the Primary Reserve of the Canadian Army

The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada is a Primary Reserve infantry regiment of the Canadian Army based in Vancouver, British Columbia. The regiment is subordinate to 39 Canadian Brigade Group, 3rd Canadian Division. Based at the Seaforth Armoury on Burrard Street in Vancouver, the regiment serves in both times of war and civil emergency, such as disaster relief after earthquakes or floods. It also contributes individual volunteers or "augmentees" to Canadian Forces operations around the world.

"To the Glory of God, and in thankful remembrance of those who served their King and Country overseas in the cause of truth, righteousness and freedom."

The 24th Psalm was read by Hon. Lt.-Col. the Rev. G.O. Fallis, C.B.E., E.D., D.D., of the Methodist Church, and the music included "O Canada" (Buchan); "O God, Our Help in Ages Past"; "Lochaber No More" (bagpipes); "For All the Saints"; "Last Post" and "God Save the King". The first wreath, being the tribute of the Corporation and Citizens of Vancouver, was reverently placed by Mrs. W.R. Owen, wife of His Worship the Mayor.

The ornamentations on the stone include one long sword and two wreaths, one of laurels, the other of poppies; both entwined with maple leaves. A stone replica of the steel helmet, as used in the war of 1914–1918, adorns three corner buttresses. A larger wreath of laurels surrounds the numerals "1914–1918" at the base of the front. Slots in a receptacle of three bronze maple leaves hold the staffs of the Union Jack, the Canadian Red Ensign, the National Flag of Canada, the White Ensign, and RCAF Ensign, always flying, which are placed there by the Royal Canadian Legion and the British Empire Services League, and renewed four times each year.

Of the monument faces; one side faces Hastings Street, the others Pender and Hamilton Streets, and was designed thus by Major G.L. Thornton Sharp, architect, town planner, and park commissioner, to conform to the triangular shape of the park. It is so placed that, when approached from the east, it appears in the distance centrally at the end of busy Hastings Street. The granite was supplied by the Vancouver Granite Co., Ltd., and the erecting contractors were Messrs. Stewart and Wylie. Mr. Stewart died from the effects of an accident whilst preparing the memorial. The Vancouver War Memorial Committee of 24, of which 12 represented the Canadian Club of Vancouver, and twelve the Civic War Memorial Committee, the whole under the chairmanship of F.W. Rounsefell, Esq., pioneer, and with J.R.V. Dunlop, Esq., of the Canadian Club, as honorary secretary, were the public-spirited sponsors. The Cenotaph cost $10,666.

The engraved inscriptions are:

Facing Hastings Street: "Their name liveth for evermore" and, within a stone wreath, "1914–1918." Facing Hamilton Street: "Is it nothing to you" Facing Pender Street: "All ye that pass by"

The first, commencing "Their name", is from Sirach, Chapter 44, Verse 14. The second, commencing "Is it nothing", from Lamentations, Chapter 1, Verse 12. The third side represents the continuation of the verse from Lamentations.

In his valedictory address, Major the Rev. Mr. Owen said:

"Those whose sacrifices this Cenotaph commemorates, were among the men who, at call of King and Country, left all that was dear, endured hardship, faced danger, and finally passed out of the sight of men by the path of duty, giving their own lives that others might live in freedom. Let those who come after see to it that their names be not forgotten."

The Cenotaph continues to be the focus of the city's annual Remembrance Day services.

The site of the Cenotaph is significant because it was at tables at the foot of the old courthouse steps where men signed up for World War I in 1914—which was symbolic for the enlistees because of the strong royalist sentiment in the city, as it was on the courthouse steps where the main ceremonials of the various royal visits to Vancouver had taken place. The courthouse was the location of many official ceremonies, particularly the royal visits of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York in 1901 and the Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn in 1912.

Around Victory Square, then and now

During the old courthouse's tenure the vicinity was the hub of the city's financial and legal district, with the Vancouver curb exchange operating just across Hastings Street, mostly in a passageway cutting the corner diagonally behind the Astor Hotel (see photos in External links). The Inns of Court, a ramshackle and infamously leaky (if decorative) structure on the west side of Courthouse Square, was the location of adjutant legal services and offices connected to the Court House. The Oddfellows Hall and what is now the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans Hall still stand further south (uphill) along Hamilton Street from where the Inns of Court used to be (now a modernist bank-cum-film studio). Most of the original main branches of the major banks were within the next few blocks west along Hastings, which in both directions was the hub of the city's shopping district until the completion of Pacific Centre in the 1970s, which severed the old pedestrian link between Woodward's, a block east of Victory Square, and Eaton's, two blocks west (now the SFU Harbour Centre campus). On the south side of Victory Square originally stood the Central School, which later became the original Vancouver Community College (then named Vancouver College), adjacent to which was the city's original main hospital (both were in a brickwork Gothic style).

Even once it was known that the courthouse was to be demolished, major construction continued to line the square where it had been. The Province, Sun and Dominion Buildings went up in rapid succession in the last years of the courthouse's existence, and remain today, although no longer as newspaper buildings. The maple trees on the Pender Street side of the park are the oldest street trees in the city, planted in 1897. [2]

Victory Square Park. Carter-Cotton Building and Sun Tower in background (old Province and Sun newspaper offices). Victory sq panorama.jpg
Victory Square Park. Carter-Cotton Building and Sun Tower in background (old Province and Sun newspaper offices).

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  1. 60 Years! Vancouver's Diamond Jubilee, Official Souvenir, 1946, 34–35.
  2. Vancouver Park Board, "Street Trees"