An unassuming path connects two main streets in downtown Victoria, but it holds a unique trait which passersby might overlook: its bricks are made of wood.
“Waddington Alley is unexpected, it’s a hidden surprise,” said Paul Nursey, CEO of Destination Greater Victoria.
Connecting Yates and Johnson streets downtown near Wharf Street, the alley was constructed by Alfred Waddington, who created it to provide access to three lots he owned during the gold rush of 1858.
At one point the alley was a hotspot for shoppers and other visitors to the local bakery, butcher, dance hall, livery stable and even a bowling alley.
Waddington died of smallpox in 1872 and shortly after the alley named for him fell into disrepair. In 1908, however, it was finished with its famous wooden blocks, which was a norm at the time. Waddington Alley is the last Victoria street with such a surface, with many of the original bricks still in place.
The wooden surface was almost removed in the early 1980s, but were saved thanks to the diligence of Victoria Coun. Geoff Young, who advocated to keep the historical site intact.
Since then, a tremendous amount of work has gone into safely updating the classic look. Originally the bricks were comprised of old growth Douglas fir, which was readily available at the time. In 2017 that wasn’t so easy.
In order to find a comparable wood, the City of Victoria worked with someone who harvested old growth Douglas fir from the bottom of Lake Cowichan, and then conducted different experiments to try to find a coating that would both preserve the wood and provide grip for pedestrians.
Now in place, the bricks – and the alley – are good to go for many years to come. The walkway, which acts as a channel between the shopping districts of lower Johnson and Yates streets, also leads to the entrance of popular and long-standing restaurant, Il Terrazzo.
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