CENTRAL COAST SALISH used the area prior to European settlement. The name Esquimalt comes from their language: "Es-whoy-malth" meaning "place of gradually shoaling water." James DOUGLAS visited the harbour in 1843, and later signed treaties with the native people allowing the development of 3 Hudson's Bay Company supply farms. Esquimalt's quiet development was shattered by the FRASER RIVER GOLD RUSH (1858) when its wharf became the main point of arrival for thousands of miners heading to Victoria.
Esquimalt officially became the headquarters of the Royal Navy's Pacific Station in 1865, although the navy had constructed buildings on Duntze Head as early as 1855. By the 1880s rapid growth was occurring through the building of Royal Navy dry docks (1887), the construction of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway (1886), and the founding of a military base at Work Point (1887). Esquimalt's attractive setting made it a desirable residential location for many of Victoria's business and political leaders. The navy base was abandoned by the admiralty in 1905 but became the West Coast base of the newly-created Royal Canadian Navy in 1910 (see also ARMED FORCES).
Of the community's original economic supports, agriculture and the military, only the latter has remained important. A large Canadian Forces Base in Esquimalt, a federal graving dock and other light industries are prominent in the economy. Several structures inside or adjacent to the naval dockyard have been listed as heritage buildings. St Paul's Anglican Church (1866) contains relics and plaques covering over a century of naval history. Some of Esquimalt's pleasant residential neighbourhoods make effective use of the community's extensive waterfront with its bays, beaches and parks.
Author ALAN F.J. ARTIBISE Rev: KEN FAVRHOLDT
Maureen Duffus, ed, Beyond the Blue Bridge: Stories From Esquimalt (1990); F.V. Longstaff, Esquimalt Naval Base: A History of its Work and Defences (1941); A.C. Wurtele, Esquimalt, 1912-1962 (1962).
Links to Other Sites
The Colonial Despatches
View digitized copies of correspondence (dated 1846 - 1859) between the British Colonial Office and the "colonies" of Vancouver Island and British Columbia. Search or browse this site for references to specific individuals, communities, companies, or industries in the province. Also includes digitized images of maps of various locations. From the website for the University of Victoria.
See maps and statistical data for regions and communities throughout British Columbia. A Government of British Columbia website.
BC Geographical Names
Search the BC Geographical Names Information System for historical and geographical data about specific locations in British Columbia.
British Columbia Archives
Explore the fascinating history of BC through online digitized copies of selected government documents, manuscripts, maps, architectural plans, photographs, illustrations, audio and video files, newspapers and much more.
CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum
The website for the CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum, located at Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt, Vancouver Island. Special features include ship histories, local heroes, women merchant mariners, characters & controversies, and much more.
The website for the Township of Esquimalt, a community located on Vancouver Island.
The website for Jane’s Walk, a network of free walking tours that explore the quality and livability of local neighbourhoods based on ideas espoused by Jane Jacobs. Click on "The Community" to access the latest news and photos on their blog and more. Also, check out "Find Your Walk" for maps and descriptions of local walks throughout the country.