Esquimalt's Historic Halfway House
(Condensed from Beyond the Blue Bridge)
The Halfway House was established in 1860 by James William Bland and his wife Elizabeth who arrived in Victoria on February 3, 1859. In 1860, two years before the incorporation of Victoria, they acquired property on Esquimalt Road, halfway between the Royal Navy station at Esquimalt Harbour and Fort Victoria, and established a roadhouse and brewery on the increasingly busy route.
Not long after opening the Blands played host to unusual guests. The ship Brother Jonathan landed in Esquimalt early in the 1860s with a herd of camels brought from the southern U.S., destined to carry supplies during construction of the wagon road to the Cariboo gold fields. While transportation to the mainland of BC was being arranged the camels were corralled in the lot behind the hotel. This unusual attraction brought hundreds of Victorians trudging out from town for a look - an unintentional publicity bonus which no doubt proved good for business.
In 1874 an ad was placed in the colonist newspaper: "Old Established Brewery and Salon for Sale." The Halfway House boasted two acres of fenced land, its own brewery at the back, and three wells "which never fail" to provide the water.
A later owner, Joe Bayley, improved the building and added a livery stable. The old wooden structure finally gave way to brick, and the building still stands on the site the Blands chose in 1860. Think of camels and an 1860s brew pub as you drive Esquimalt Road just east of Head Street.
(Contributor: Esquimalt Archives volunteer Sherri Robinson, great great granddaughter of James William and Elizabeth Bland)
Also see the Bland family of Esquimalt.
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