A Rich and Vibrant History

Colwood has a rich and interesting history that tells of First Nations heritage, the escapades of the Royal Navy and the Hudson's Bay Company, the establishment of a caring and generous community of early settlers, the history of treasured sites like Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse, and Victorian high society affairs at Hatley Castle. 

Colwood Chronicles

Get your copy of the Colwood Chronicles - the first complete book about the history of Colwood! Just $20 per copy at Colwood City Hall, Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre and Coast Collective Art Gallery, they make a wonderful gift!

 

Colwood's Historical Timeline

1000

Scientists know that Indigenous people have lived in what is now British Columbia for more than 10,000 years by the archaeological artifacts dating from that time. Many scientists now believe that some of the First Peoples may have been here for much longer than that. 

Less than 500 years ago, the only people in this area now known as Colwood were likely the Coast Salish, Lekwungen speaking people. As a community, we are honoured to have the opportunity to learn from and work with the Songhees, Esquimalt and Scia'new Nations. 

1852 - Colwood Dairy is built

The Colwood Dairy and Cheese House, the Island’s first stone diary, was constructed in 1852 on the 600 acre Esquimalt Farm that lies between Esquimalt Harbour and Langford Lake. The dairy is now considered to be the oldest building on the West Shore, and one of the six oldest buildings in the province. A new development on the site includes plans to incorporate this historic building into the landscape and open it to the public. Read about 486 Landmark development plans and see photos in this blog by Toad Hollow Photography.

1853 - Chief Justice Cameron builds house at Belmont

Chief Justice David Cameron builds a house at Belmont, now the site of Fort Rodd Hill National Historic site.

1860 - Fisgard Lighthouse constructed

Fisgard Lighthouse is constructed to guide to guide vessels through the entrance of Esquimalt harbour. It was the first lighthouse built on Canada's west coast. The lighthouse was automated in 1929, and continues to be a working lighthouse today.

 

1860 - Sawmill at Esquimalt Lagoon

A sawmill is opened on Colwood Creek above Esquimalt Lagoon on what is now Royal Roads land. Read more about Early Industry at Esquimalt Lagoon.

 

1874 - Original Colwood School built

The original Colwood School is built on Sooke Road on land donated by local farmer, Arthur Peatt. 

1879 - Colwood's first hotel is built

The first Colwood hotel is built with Andrew J. Bechtel as the proprietor.

1880 - Esquimalt Lagoon firing range

Esquimalt Lagoon was used as a firing range for the Royal Navy during the 1880's. It was also the site of farms, a tannery and a sawmill in the 19th century. It continued to be used as a rifle range by Royal Roads military college well into the 20th century.

1881 - Havenwood purchased from the Crown

Havenwood (acreage on the border of Esquimalt Lagoon in Colwood) Havenwood purchased from the Crown by the Belmont Tanning & Boot and Shot Manufacturing Company. The company also owned and operated a sawmill & then a tannery from 1870-1920 on Cottonwood Creek (now Colwood Creek) in Hatley Park.

1890s - Horse Racing at Colwood Corners

Steeple and flat course horse racing tracks were located near Colwood Corners on the land that is now Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre.

1892 - Colwood farm leased out

William John Wale leased the 600 acre Colwood Farm for the sum of $400 per year, and in 1899 he was appointed the first Justice of the Peace for the Province of BC.

1892 - Colwood hotel burns down

The Colwood Hotel burned down and was rebuilt, then sold it to Mrs. Miller, who became the owner of the Goldstream Inn.

1895 - Fort Rodd Hill armed

Fort Rodd Hill was armed to guard the Royal Navy yards at Esquimalt.

1902 - James Dunsmuir purchases Hatley Park Estate

Honourable James Dunsmuir, member of the BC Legislature purchased Hatley Park Estate at Esquimalt Lagoon.

1910 - Colwood Women's Institute

Colwood Women’s Institute is formed and hosts fundraising garden parties at Hatley Castle to build the Colwood Community Hall, St. John the Baptist Church and in 1927, the Queen Alexandra Solarium which is now the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island.

1913 - St. John the Baptist Church built

Saint John the Baptist Church was built on land that had been donated by Alfred Peatt and with the aid of fund-raising by the Colwood Women’s Institute and the support of Mrs. Laura Dunsmuir.

1914 - Colwood Golf and Country Club formed

Colwood Golf and Country Club is formed on land purchased by Joseph Sayward and James Dunsmuir. Read more about the history of the Royal Colwood Golf Club.

1919 - Producer's Pit began operations

Producer's Pit (now known as Royal Bay) began operations circa 1919 as one of the area's largest industrial sites and major employers, extracting sand and gravel to meet local needs and also sending countless barge-loads to the Mainland and Washington State. It was one of the region's largest industrial sites, and Colwood's major employer. At its peak, it produced and barged out more than 20,000 tonnes of aggregate every day. The site was decommissioned by the owner in 2007. In 2007 - its last year of operation - the gravel pit provided a hefty $912,282 in tax revenue for the City of Colwood. 

1920

F.W. Jones of Golden, BC opens up the gravel pit at Royal Bay.

1922

The first cottage (the Stone Cottage) was built on the Havenwood property near Esquimalt Lagoon. The Beesemyer family lived in the cottage, followed by the Pendray family.

1925

Alfred Peatt donates Pioneer Cemetery to the community for a public burial ground. Read more about the history of Pioneer Cemetery.

1927

Pendray House completed at Havenwood property near Esquimalt Lagoon.

1930 Lagoon Bridge and Cottages

The Lagoon Bridge was built in 1930.

  • 1930 – The bridge was constructed by the provincial government
  • 1968 – The superstructure was replaced
  • 1984 – The bridge was widened
  • 1985 – The City of Colwood was incorporated and took on responsibility for the bridge 

Frequent advertisements in the local papers around 1912 promise beautiful “Ocean Beach” home sites in Royal Bay, on a “real bathing beach near town” and the “completion of the Belmont road in the near future will connect with the famous spit which skirts the lagoon and enters directly into Ocean Beach”. In the end, the bridge was not built until 1930 and cottagers had to take the long way around until it was in place.


Excerpt from an advert in the Victoria Daily Colonist, November 24, 1912

Read more at: Lagoon Bridge & Cottages

1935 - the Dugout Restaurant at Esquimalt Lagoon

A beer parlour and sea food restaurant known as the Dugout was built and maintained on the site for many years. The structure was destroyed by fire and was sorely missed by soldiers from Fort Rodd and sailors from Naden.

1939

Colwood Volunteer Fire Department originates from a 1939 Air Raid Protection Unit, which included fire fighting in their duties.

1940

The Federal Government converts Hatley Castle and grounds into a naval training establishment.

1941

Triangle Mountain becomes the site of the Fortress Commanders Post.

1943 - Fire Command Post on Triangle Mountain

Colwood’s Triangle Mountain is now a residential area, but it has an interesting military history. 

Originally called triangular hill, it was used as a navigational aid as a point of triangulation for ships that were entering the harbours.

During the Second World War, the area was turned into a command post and was part of a coastal defence system.

“There were 20 locations across the entrances to the Victoria and Esquimalt harbours,” says Kate Humble, curator at Fort Rodd Hill . “They were like studs on a belt and they all had different purposes…some were gun batteries, some were observation posts and all of them working together was called a fortress defense system.”

Humble said the different posts served as a wall of defence for the harbours and many of them had been in place since the mid to late-1800s.

But in the Second World War, threats from air and sea became even greater as technology advanced and so the Fire Command Post was built on Triangle Mountain.

“It was the nerve centre of the whole operation,” Humble said. “All of the batteries and so on acted as the limbs of a body and Triangle Mountain was like a brain sending signals and instruction to all of the different pieces of the body.”

Humble said the command post on Triangle Mountain instructed batteries on where and when to fire at enemy ships, which is why it was called the Fire Command Post.

Now, Humble said the remnants of the command post are long gone along with the others that were part of the fortress defence system. Fort Rodd Hill stands as an example of how the others functioned.

1966

Pendray House at Havenwood on the Esquimalt Lagoon was purchased by Blarney Properties Limited. It was first used as a country club, and then a rest home called Heatherbell Gardens Rest Home.

1972

Pacific Centre for Human Development began leasing Havenwood from Mrs. Ellis. A summer camp began there in 1977 and in 1980 Pacific Centre for Human Development purchased the property.

1985

City of Colwood Incorporated

2008

Coast Collective Art Centre began using Pendray House at Havenwood near Esquimalt Lagoon as an Art Centre.