The next view represents Government Street, east side, from the Brown Jug north to the St. Nicholas Building. The first building south from there of any prominence was that now occupied by the British Columbia Market, and then known as the Alhambra Building. The upper floor was used as a public hall, and many grand balls were given here, as well as other social events. The lower floor was used as Zelner's pharmacy, and next door by Gilmore, the clothier. Alongside and using the upper portion of Gilmore's Building also, is the Colonial Hotel, one of the swell places of that day. I next recognize the store of the well-known firm of W. & J. Wilson, clothiers and outfitters, which was then conducted by the father and uncle of the present proprietor, Mr. Joseph Wilson. With the exception of the Hudson's Bay Company, Hibben & Co. (then Hibben & Carswell) and Thomas Wilson, the draper, the firm of W. & J. Wilson is, so .far as I can remember, the longest established in Victoria.
I can remember being fitted out there on occasions as a school-boy. Their advertisement in the Colonist, with their autograph underneath, occupied part of the front page of the paper continuously for years.
The two-story wooden building in the middle of the block, between Trounce Alley and Fort Street, is the Hotel de France, kept by P. Manciet, and one of the two principal hotels of that day. Next was, McNiff''s grotto, Mon's Laundry, The Star and Garter, Thomas Wilson & Co., drapers, and farther on the two-story brick building, now Hibben & Co., and farther on south .J. H. Turner & Co. Of course all will recognize the name as that of the Hon. J. H. Turner. The firm occupied the whole of the building up and downstairs, as drapers and carpet warehousemen, and I might state that the late Henry Brown, Walter Shears, late custom appraiser, and Edward White were on the staff. Next is one of the two meat markets, owned by Thomas Harris, the first mayor of Victoria. His prominent figure may be seen on the sidewalk looking across the street. With my mind's eye I can see him at the Queen's Birthday celebration on Beacon Hill. The chief event of the year was the racing on that day, and the mayor was an enthusiastic horse fancier, and a steward of the Jockey Club. These celebrations were nothing without Mr. Harris. The bell rings (John Butts was bellman) and the portly figure of Mr. Harris on horse-back appears. "Now, gentlemen, clear the course," and then there is a general scattering of people outside the rails; the horses with their gaily dressed jockeys canter past the grandstand, make several false starts, and off they go for the mile heat around the hill and back to the grandstand. Oh, what exciting things those races were!
Another prominent figure at these race meetings was John Howard, of Esquimalt. The race meetings without Messrs. Harris and Howard would not have been the genuine thing, and, I must not forget to mention Millington, who always rode Mr. Harris' horses at these meetings. I believe he is still in the land of the living. I would we had such Queen's weather as we had then. May was equal to July now for warmth, and with beautiful clear skies, they were days worth remembering. Everyone went out for the day and the hill was covered with picnickers. The navy was represented by bluejackets and marines by the hundreds, bands of music, Aunt Sally and the usual other side shows. And lastly, I must not forget the music. The flagships of those days were large three-deckers, line-of-battleships, such as the Ganges or Sutlej, which would make an ordinary flagship look small. It was understood that the officers, being wealthy men, subscribed liberally towards a fine band. It was a great treat to hear the Ganges' full band, as I have heard it in the streets of Victoria preceding a naval funeral to Quadra Street Cemetery, and very few I missed. But I have digressed and will proceed to finish Government Street. The corner building, now torn down to make way for the Five Sisters' Block, was occupied by William Searby, chemist, who was my Sunday School teacher. He left Victoria for San Francisco, and I had the pleasure of renewing his acquaintance years later, and, I think, he is still in business in Market Street. In the front of Searby's stands John Weiler, father of the Weiler brothers of our day. The upper portion of this building was called the Literary Institute, and the first I remember of Mr. Redfern was at an entertainment given here for some charity, when he sang that beautiful tenor song from “The Bohemian Girl," “Then You'll Remember Me," and it has been a favorite with, me ever since.
W. K. Bull, who presided over so many municipal elections, and was a very well-read man, also took part, giving a reading on Australia, and ending up with a recitation.
Crossing the street, we come to the Brown Jug, the same to-day as then, but kept by Tommy Golden, a well-known character then. In the front is a hydrant with a water-cart getting its load for distribution through the city. The water was conveyed in wooden pipes from Spring Ridge and sold by the bucket, which may be seen on the shafts of the cart. Forty of these buckets represented one dollar. Opposite the Brown Jug and across the street is a vacant lot, now occupied by the Bank of Commerce. The opposite corner to this is also vacant, but soon after was built the present brick building by J. J. Southgate and Captain Lascelles, R.N., of the gunboat Boxer.
From Edgar Fawcett, Reminiscences of Old Victoria, (Toronto: William Briggs, 1912) Chapter 5, pp. 59-62.