Dorothy Mindenhall is an architectural historian with a particular interest in the Victorian era. She was a contributor to Building the West, a publication about the architects and architectural environment of early British Columbia, and is involved in various projects for heritage conservation. She lives in Victoria.
Unbuilt Victoria celebrates the city that is, and laments the city that could have been.
For most people, resident and visitor alike, Victoria, British Columbia, is a time capsule of Victorian and Edwardian buildings. From a modest fur-trading post of the Hudson’s Bay Company it grew to be the province’s major trading centre. Then the selection of Vancouver as the terminus of the transcontinental railway in the 1880s, followed by a smallpox epidemic that closed the port in the 1890s, resulted in decline.
Victoria succeeded in reinventing itself as a tourist destination, based on the concept of nostalgia for all things English, stunning scenery, and investment opportunities. In the modernizing boom after the Second World War attempts were made to move the city’s built environment into the mainstream, but the prospect of Victoria’s becoming like any other North American city did not win public approval.
Unbuilt Victoria examines some of the architectural plans that were proposed but rejected. That some of them were ever dreamed of will probably amaze, that others never made it might well be a matter of regret.