Lewis Street Heritage
By Linda Carlson
Have you ever imagined what it was like to live on your street a hundred years ago? Have you tried to picture the people who would have been your neighbours if you could be magically transported back in time? Well, the residents of Lewis Street have not just speculated about the long-ago denizens of their street,but they have done the digging to find out who they were and where they came from.
By searching building permits, old City Directories, census data and birth, marriage and death records each of the 17 houses on the street was dated and first residents were identified. Birth places and occupations were also determined where possible. There was a diversity of occupations amongst these first residents although at least six were employed in the local maritime industry. These included three ships captains, a machinist at Victoria Machinery Depot and two clerks at the BC Steamship Company. Reflective of a burgeoning city, there were also three carpenters, one of whom curiously also worked as a bicycle repairman. As early city directories focused primarily on the professions of the male heads of households it can be difficult to uncover the occupations of early 20th century women. Determined research however did reveal that the women of Lewis street included a musician, a stenographer, a landlady, a retired schoolteacher and in the latter years of the century, a merchant and realtor.
With the assistance of a City of Victoria Great Neighbourhood Grant covering the cost of materials, Lewis Street resident Davyd McMinn designed and fabricated a plaque for each of the 17 houses which features historic details about each house and its first residents. There is even an 18th plaque, installed at the entrance to Lewis Park which includes details about the 1911 house which was demolished in 1975 to create the park. Printed transfers on each of the plaques were supplied by Ally Kat Signs.
The creators of the Lewis Street heritage plaques are hopeful that this project will serve as a prototype for similar informational heritage plaque projects on other historic streets in James Bay and further afield. A little digging can reveal a treasure trove of interesting residential history about our streets and neighbourhoods.
In the meantime, take a leisurely wander down picturesque and pedestrian friendly Lewis Street. Read the plaques and you will learn a little bit more about the architectural and social history of one of James Bay’s heritage gems.