Old Esquimalt Road deserves heritage status: township staff

Oldest planned road in Western Canada dates back to 1851

Old Esquimalt Road

Old Esquimalt Road

In 1852, Capt. Augustus Leopold Kuper and the crew of HMS Thetis were ordered to carve out the first overland connection between Esquimalt harbour and the Hudson Bay Company fort in Victoria.

The men spent months cutting through Douglas fir and Garry oak trees in the untouched forest, creating what local historians call the first planned road in Western Canada.

At the time, it served as the dividing line between the Puget Sound Agricultural Company, Constance Cove and Viewfield farms.

Adjoining land was cleared for St. Joseph’s Mission, built in 1858 as the first Roman Catholic church in B.C., as well as the Halfway House, which was built in 1861 as a safe haven for those travelling north during the gold rush.

In recognition of Old Esquimalt Road’s claim to historical fame, township staff are considering its inclusion on Esquimalt’s heritage register.

“It doesn’t put any restrictions on the road, it just puts it on an official list of properties that Esquimalt sees as significant,” said Karen Hay, planning technician and staff liaison to the heritage advisory committee.

The heritage register differs from the more formal designated heritage sites, Hay said.

While heritage designation creates a number of incentives and restrictions for homeowners, the heritage register is only an official recognition of historically significant properties.

“The B.C. Assessment authority has determined that there would be no impact to the property values of lots adjoining Old Esquimalt Road by placing the road on the heritage register,” Hay said in a letter to residents.

“Also, placement of the road on the heritage register in no way encumbers the local government. The engineering aspects of the road could still be changed for safety or development.”

The public consultation process continues until Nov. 30, after which a statement of significance will go to committee of the whole on Dec. 10. Council will likely consider the matter in January.

For more information, contact Hay at 250-414-7179.

dpalmer@vicnews.com