Downtown Victoria was built on the territory of the Lekwungen People and Coast Salish peoples. The Inner harbour in the 18th century was a large mudflat with some of the best clam beds of the West Coast, providing a food source for the nearby Songhees village that existed in today's Beacon Hill Park. The first non-indigenous person to set foot on Vancouver Island was Captain James Cook in 1778, whose survey of the land ultimately brought the fur trade movement towards the Pacific Coast. In 1843, Chief Factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, James Douglas, anchored off Clover Point to begin work on establishing Fort Victoria. Fort Victoria was located around today's Bastion Square, and by 1846 was an outpost of the fur trade and a European settlement. The establishment of the Fort saw the Songhees village pushed across the harbour into what is now known as Victoria West.
Riches struck Victoria in 1858 when gold was discovered in the Fraser River. Almost overnight the gold rush hit and the population of Victoria boomed. In six months, Victoria went from a fort town of 500 people to a bustling city of 20,000. To accommodate the new population, many old town businesses and buildings you see today were first constructed. In 1859, government buildings called ‘The Birdcages’ were built and Victoria was named the capital of British Columbia by 1868. A call for new Legislative Assembly Buildings was made to create a grand and luxurious welcome to the city for ships entering the Inner Harbour. The building was designed by Francis M. Ratenbury who also went on to design the adjacent Empress Hotel to compliment and complete the Inner Harbour you see today.