Top Five Facts About the History of Our Campus

UVic has been around as a university since 1963, but even before that there was a lot going on here! This campus has been home to farmland, a military base, and a jam factory! There are so many cool things that have happened on our campus and in our university history, I thought I’d share my top five here.

1. First and Foremost

UVic is situated on the unceded traditional territories of the Lekwungen-speaking peoples. The Songhees, Esquimalt, and WSÁNEĆ peoples have lived on this land since time immemorial, and continue to have important relationships with the land to this day.

Some WSÁNEĆ oral traditions mention what we now call Hobbs Creek, which runs through Mystic Vale, as a sacred site. Before European settlement, this land was used for hunting and harvesting. We should all keep this history in mind when we are walking on this beautiful land. If you want to know more, stop by the First People’s House!

2. The Magical Finnerty Apple Trees

Did you know that the Finnerty family ran a successful orchard and dairy farm on the land that is now our campus? Michael Finnerty and his family arrived here in 1859 from Ireland, and one of the roads leading in to campus (Finnerty Road) is named after him. They had their own kind of apple tree – the Finnerty apple, a species of Malus sylvestris – a couple of which still stand in the quad! Here’s another fun tidbit – Michael Finnerty lived to be 109 years old! Maybe his apples are magical?

3. Gordon Head Army Camp – Yes, Sir!

Part of campus used to be home to a military camp (the Gordon Head Army Camp) from the 1930’s to the 1950’s. We still have the huts to prove it! A, B, E, Q, R, and Y huts are still around, and are used for a variety of administration and academic purposes. They are actually heritage buildings, so the University is required to maintain them and not change their exterior.

Fun fact: back in the day, you might have found yourself in one of the huts for a lecture or two!

4. The Infamous Jam Factory

Jam Factory

Speaking of heritage buildings, have you ever been walking around Sinclair Road by Cluster Housing and noticed an old wood building that kind of looks like a cross between a windmill and a giant shoe (at least in my opinion)?

Technically it’s called the water tower, which was its original purpose, but for a time it housed a literal jam factory!

Algernon and Letitia Pease grew strawberries on their farmland, and since they had so many gorgeous berries to work with, they converted the water tower into the Hamsterley Jam Factory! In their first year, one thousand cases of jam were made and sold. Algernon even wrote a song to promote the jam factory. You can find out more about its history here.

5. Radio-activity

Before it became a part of our campus, the Cedar Hill Corner Property (located on the southeast corner of campus) was home to the Island Broadcasting Company Ltd. It was home to a large transmission tower, and an agricultural field. The University purchased the land in 1964, the year after the university officially became UVic as we know and love it!

Since this campus has such a wonderful and rich history, you never know what you’re going to find when you’re running around! What are some of your favourite facts about the history of our campus?

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2 Responses

  1. Andrea says:

    Hi Izzy! I know its been a minute since we last chatted- hope you;re staying safe and keeping well 🙂

    I was going down memory lane (i.e., reminiscing about my days a tour guide and blogger) and really enjoyed reading your blog post! I actually have a few questions, if you don’t mind:

    1. Do you happen to know what was UVic’s first faculty? Was it something related to arts given the Victoria College of the arts?
    2. Any chance you know which quad trees are the ones surviving from the orchard days?
    3. Have you heard anything about Emily Carr’s ghost “haunting” campus? Specifically her building in the residence area.

    Genuinely just curious to know more 🙂 Thanks again for writing such an entertaining post!

    Take care,

  2. Jill says:

    Speaking of Radio-activity, there was a WWII “Listening Station” located near the intersection of Sinclair and Finnerty on what is now UVic Property.