Beacon Hill Park: Submitted by Janis Ringuette; abridged, Marg Gardiner


See Janis Ringuette’s web-site for full history:

South Park: 19th Century history from Janis Ringuette, current by Tim VanAlstine; written, Marg Gardiner

Beacon Hill Park

Click image for larger map

Beacon Hill Park is the largest and most spectacular park in the City of Victoria’s park system. It was granted in Trust, to the City of Victoria, by the Province in 1882. In 2009, Victoria City Council recognized the high value of Beacon Hill Park by declaring it a Municipal Heritage Site. City publications refer to the park as the city’s “crown jewel”. (See original and current park boundaries on attached map).

James Douglas, Hudson’s Bay Company, sketched out the boundaries of a “Park Reserve” (later called Beacon Hill Park) by 1850. The original size of the park was over 220 acres. Approximately forty acres of park land were sold before 1864. The largest loss of thirty-two acres was in the northeast corner. Another eight acres along the west boundary of the Park were sold. The park was reduced to 184 acres.

Under the city’s control, further losses have defined a park of 154 acres. Many acres are used for internal roads, parking lots, or dedicated to special uses, leaving about 127 acres freely available for public use.

Thirty acres of park land are now major city streets (plus sidewalks, boulevards and intersections):

Douglas Street from Superior to Dallas

Dallas Road from Douglas Street to Cook Street

Southgate from Douglas Street to Heywood Avenue

South Park

South Park, bordering Douglas between Michigan and Toronto, is a multi-use city owned park with a playground and sporting field area, jointly used and managed by the City and School District 61 through agreement.

Most of South Park had been in the “Park Reserve” defined by James Douglas, while the western edge was part of the Hudson Bay Company’s Beckley Farm area. When the eight acres of Beacon Hill Park along the western boundary was sold in 1861, it was divided into private lots. 3½ acres on the west side were sold to John Morris.  South Park School, built in 1894, is on the north end of the eight acre segment.

Oral history suggests decades of mixed use of the park area, with use as farmland with an orchard and cow pasture. Nearby homes on Government Street provided housing for farm laborers. The area was utilized as park and school yard for many years without being designated as a park.

Controversy ensued during the 1990s, with competing interests wanting rights to the area. The neighbourhood responded by demanding South Park, Lewis Parkette and Fisherman’s Wharf Park be designated park once and for all.

Beacon Hill Park and Douglas Street (Superior Street to Dallas Road)

Douglas Street, from Superior Street to Dallas Road, was constructed entirely on Beacon Hill Park land. Many acres were removed from the park to create the roadway; more greenspace disappeared when Douglas Street was widened and diagonal parking spaces were added on the east side. Sidewalks and boulevards on the west side of Douglas Street from Superior to Dallas were built on park land. The major intersection at Douglas Street, Blanshard, Superior and Southgate was built on Beacon Hill Park land. The street on the east side of the triangle of land called Mile Zero running from Dallas to Douglas is on Beacon Hill Park land.

The Mile Zero street “curve” follows the 19th century horse race track. In 1958, the Canadian Automobile Association installed the first Mile 0 monument. It is now the terminus for the Trans-Canada Highway. 

In 2005, the Terry Fox memorial statue was sited in this piece of parkland, at Mile Zero.

JBNA has embarked on a Douglas Street visioning project; a focus on edges of Douglas Street may provide impetus for creating a visual connect between Beacon Hill Park and James Bay west of Douglas and downtown to the northwest. 

Map at: