Victoria’s Chinatown is the oldest in Canada on Vancouver Island and it’s the second oldest in North American after San Francisco’s.
In 1858, Fraser Canyon gold was discovered and led to increased numbers of migration to British Colombia, a third of it was Chinese. Many Chinese crossed the Pacific Ocean to Victoria due to famine, drought, and war back home. Most of the population was from the Guangdong province.
Victoria’s Chinatown population swelled and also gained a seedy reputation for the opium parlors, brothels and gambling dens. It occupied 6 blocks at it’s peak in 1911 and contained 3,158 people, more than Victoria’s entire 2001 population. The 1920-1970s marked a period of decline, the areas population shrank. The 1980s brought revitalization plans to the area. One of the most noticeable signs of revitalization are the Gates of Harmonies Interest. (Every Chinatown I’ve been to has a gate. We can’t figure out why we don’t have one in Manhattan, I want an arch too.) The ongoing renewal over the years has lead to coffee shops, shops, cafes, workshops, and a condo development by Dragon Alley. It attracts tourists and the artsy community.
It’s a tiny area, we aren’t use to Chinatown’s restaurants being closed at 9am. We went on a quick walk through it right before we hopped on our bus/ferry to Vancouver. We wanted to get some baos (buns that are plain or have meat or sweet fillings in them) but no one was open yet. Next time we will try the Chinese food. Fan Tan Alley is really cute. It was once a private walkway but presently filled with shops and offices. This Chinatown is really quaint and cute.