Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia, Canada, and is located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island about 100 kilometres (62 miles) from BC's largest city of Vancouver on the mainland. Victoria is close to the United States, about 100 kilometres (62 miles) from Seattle by airplane or ferry and 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Port Angeles, Washington by ferry Prior to the arrival of the Captain James Cook in the late 1700s, the Victoria area was home to several communities of Coast Salish peoples, including the Songhees. The Spanish and British took up the exploration of the northwest coast of North America beginning with the visits of Juan Perez in 1774 and of Captain James Cook in 1778 although the Victoria area of the Strait of Juan de Fuca was not penetrated until 1790. Spanish sailors visited Esquimalt Harbour (within the modern Capital Regional District) in 1790, 1791, and 1792.
In 1841 James Douglas was charged with the duty of setting up a trading post on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, upon the recommendation by Sir George Simpson that a second line of forts be built in case Fort Vancouver and the other lower Columbia River valley forts fell into American hands (see Oregon boundary dispute). Charged with this task, Douglas founded Fort Victoria, on the site of present-day Victoria, British Columbia. This proved beneficial when in 1846 the Oregon Treaty was signed, extending the British North America/United States border along the 49th parallel from the Rockies to the Strait of Georgia.
Erected in 1843 as a Hudson's Bay Company trading post on a site originally called Camosun (the native word was "camosack", meaning "rush of water") known briefly as "Forts Albert", the settlement was later christened Fort Victoria, in honour of Queen Victoria. The Songhees established a village across the harbour from the fort. The Songhees' village was later moved north of Esquimalt. When the crown was established in 1849, a town was laid out on the site and made the capital of the colony. The Chief Factor of the fort, James Douglas was made the second governor of the Vancouver Island Colony (Richard Blanshard was first governor, Arthur Edward Kennedy was third and last governor), and would be the leading figure in the early development of the city until his retirement in 1864.
Wawadit'la, also known as Mungo Martin House, a Kwakwaka'wakw "big house", with heraldic d. Built by Chief Mungo Martin in 1953. Located at Thunderbird Park in Victoria, British Columbia.
With the discovery of gold on the British Columbia mainland in 1858, Victoria became the port, supply base, and outfitting centre for miners on their way to the Fraser Canyon gold fields, mushrooming from a population of 300 to over 5000 literally within a few days. Victoria was incorporated as a city in 1862. In 1865, Esquimalt was made the North Pacific home of the Royal Navy, and remains Canada's west coast naval base. In June 2010, the Canadian Navy celebrated its 100th anniversary with a Fleet Review in the waters off of Greater Victoria, by Canada's Governor General Michaelle Jean. The review was attended by warships from Canada, France, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, the United States and US and Canadian Coast Guard vessels. In 1866 when the island was politically united with the mainland, Victoria remained the capital of the new united colony and became the provincial capital when British Columbia joined the Canadian Confederation in 1871. Memoirs still in print of those early days include those by painter Emily Carr.
In 1886, with the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway terminus on Burrard Inlet, Victoria's position as the commercial centre of British Columbia was irrevocably lost to the City of Vancouver. The city subsequently began cultivating an image of genteel civility within its natural setting, an image aided by the impressions of visitors such as Rudyard Kipling, the opening of the popular Butchart Gardens in 1904 and the construction of the Empress Hotel by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1908. Robert Dunsmuir, a leading industrialist whose interests included coal mines and a railway on Vancouver Island, constructed Craigdarroch Castle in the Rockland area, near the official residence of the province's lieutenant-governor. His son James Dunsmuir became premier and subsequently lieutenant-governor of the province and built his own grand residence at Hatley Park (used for several decades as Royal Roads Military College, now civilian Royal Roads University) in the present City of Colwood.
A real estate and development boom ended just before World War I, leaving Victoria with a large stock of Edwardian public, commercial and residential structures that have greatly contributed to the City's character. A number of municipalities surrounding Victoria were incorporated during this period, including the Township of Esquimalt, the District of Oak Bay, and several municipalities on the Saanich Peninsula. Since World War II the Victoria area has seen relatively steady growth, becoming home to two major universities. Since the 1980s the western suburbs have been incorporated as new municipalities, such as Colwood and Langford.
Greater Victoria periodically experiences calls for the amalgamation of the thirteen municipal governments within the Capital Regional District. The opponents of amalgamation state that separate governance affords residents a greater deal of local autonomy. The proponents of amalgamation argue that it would reduce duplication of services, while allowing for more efficient use of resources and the ability to better handle broad, regional issues and long-term planning.