Mrs. Martha Hayward wrapped a light shawl around her shoulders
as she left her home on Vancouver Street and headed toward downtown
Victoria. Now on the eve of the twentieth century the city,
British Columbia's capital since 1871, had become a modern and
vibrant metropolis. Queen Victoria, the sovereign who also
lends her name to the capital, would soon be celebrating her
birthday. The Queen, who had been the ruling British monarch since
1837, would be turning 80, a milestone Mrs. Hayward felt was indeed
worth celebrating! As the wife of a successful entrepreneur
aspiring to great political achievements, Martha Hayward was no
stranger to being in the company of members of Victoria's
Mrs. Hayward was in need of some supplies for an upcoming soiree
she was hosting in honour of Her Majesty.
Strolling down the street, she reminisced of the lavish parties
given by Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Gray, a prominent socialite married to
successful industrialist Andrew Gray. In 1890, they
commissioned Roslyn, a magnificently ornate
house overlooking the Gorge waterway, Victoria's splendid
playground for the wealthy. The residence was the jewel
of the entire neighbourhood. Even Mrs. Hayward had to admit
she was secretly envious of the house whose silhouette and surfaces
were unmistakable with conical caped turrets, irregular roofline,
balconies and verandahs, as well as textured shingles covering the
Extravagant parties were a welcome pastime for Mrs. Hayward who,
because of her marriage into a wealthy family, had servants at her
service and therefore few chores to do by way of looking after her
household. These social gatherings were a stark contrast to
her earlier years spent at St. Ann's Academy, where she was
educated. She arrived there shortly after the completion of
the first section of the monumental building in 1871, the largest edifice
in the province at that time. Mrs. Hayward reflected with
fondness on some of her former educators of the Sisters of St. Ann
from the Montréal area, with their soft-spoken French-Canadian
accent yet stringent rules. What she loved most about that
Quebec convent styled school was the way it stood out from the
English-influenced architecture around it.
Those were simpler times, she contemplated. Now the world
was developing at such a fast pace. The march of modernism
seemed unstoppable, transforming all aspects of life.
Electricity began replacing traditional lighting methods such as
gas, factories mass-produced common household goods, and the
telephone revolutionized communication. New technology was
changing daily life. Mrs. Hayward boarded the electric streetcar to
continue her journey downtown, the hum of electricity buzzing through the
overhead wires a constant reminder of modern life. Mrs.
Hayward was ignorant of where the power came from, but in truth, it
was no mystery. The power was being generated from the National Electric Tramway and Light Company
Powerhouse, a sturdy-build brick industrial building in the
town's Upper Harbour area. This new transportation
technology, introduced to Victoria in 1890, suddenly changed how
Mrs. Martha Hayward moved about the city. Distances and time
began to collapse as she could now reach her destination much
faster. "That's progress!" she thought.
After disembarking from the tram, Mrs. Hayward continued her travel on
foot mindful of the teeming streets crowded with horse-drawn
buggies as well as motorized carriages. "You simply take your
life into your hands when walking downtown!" she decided.
Many she knew viewed these bustling streets as evidence of a young
nation's progress - it was an optimistic outlook for a new
century. This new attitude was embodied in Victoria's
attractive City Hall, built
by eminent local architect John Teague in the Second Empire
style. Mrs. Hayward's husband spent much of his time there
trying to advance his political ambitions and she shared his pride
in this grand edifice. But most of all, she loved to hear the
clock tower chime out the time!
A few blocks away from City Hall, Mrs. Hayward finally arrived
at her destination: the brand new Weiler Building, home to Weiler
Brothers Home Furnishing. The business was Victoria's first
department store and this novel luxury delighted Mrs. Hayward a
great deal, especially the way household goods were ordered and
classified; "a rational way to organize the world," she
mused. As mistress of the house, the department store never
let Mrs. Hayward miss the latest home decor fashions, and no new
trend escaped her! Collecting her supplies, she paid for her
goods and began her return journey home. "What will tomorrow
bring," she asked herself, "in this ever-expanding city full of
optimism for the future?"
The Victorian era was a time of great change in Canada.
Why not use the Canadian Register to discover some intriguing
Victorian Era historic places near you. After all, every
historic place tells a story!