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Notes on the Geography of Canada (B.C.): Victoria's Waterfront 1

A circuit of the waterfront, moving from west to east.

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Canada (B.C.): Victoria's Waterfront 1 picture 1

The view from the back terrace of Government House over the Strait of Juan de Fuca and, on the far side, the Olympic Mountains of Washington State.

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A whale-backed rock, shaped by the ice sheets.

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What to do with such prospects? One answer is in Beacon Hill Park. So much for Americans who can't see any significant difference between themselves and those folks up north.

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Stepping back several hundred moist yards to see a good bit of Beacon Hill Park, perched on its bluff above a log-strewn beach. This is about as prime a patch of waterfront real-estate as exists in Canada, and you can't buy it.

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A brighter day along the park's edge.

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Panning right: a line of houses has waterfront views, but Beach Drive runs between the houses and the public space. "Socialists!"

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A lot of the houses along this stretch are nothing special--which, in itself, is pretty special, considering that such property, with a view of the heavy-duty Olympic Mountains, is worth a lot of money.

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Eastward, the houses do become more expensive--a lot more expensive. The gradient may be traced in this sequence, beginning a short distance east of the previous picture. Note, again, the public beach.

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From here on, to the adjoining municipality of Oak Bay, property is choice--and priced to fit.

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The preponderance of housing is traditional, but a few people have been building "modern" houses for a long time.

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A recent version of the same.

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This house was rundown, but it sat on prime real estate.

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The hallway.

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The living room, looking over the water. The fireplace masonry had all been removed because the house was moving.

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In the summer of 2000, it went up on blocks.

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It was barged 20 miles to a yard, where it sat for sale.

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What came next? The lot was split and two new houses went up.

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The public beach access path was now pinched between two new houses. The house that had been moved had been on the left here but not so close to the lot line. The house on the right was being remodelled.

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Here's what it had been, apparently not suitable to the owner.

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People who have known Victoria for the last few decades watch with a mixture of fatalism and despair, as the city grows denser and more crowded by the day.

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Observatory Hill is a good example. The waterfront is just to the left. The observatory dome (no longer functional) is at the upper right. Former park land--and land once considered unbuildable--is now thick with houses.

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Apartments are the next step. Here, a surprisingly modest example, right on the water.

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A motel of the same vintage stands with a similarly grand exposure.


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