By Ted Ross

Image #B-02694 courtesy of Royal BCMuseum, BC Archives

In 1883 a complex of wharves opened at Shoal Point. Rithet's Piers were the nucleus of the Outer Harbour, which would eventually develop between Shoal Point and Ogden Point to the south. Rithet's docks were built for the sugar trade, in which R.P. Rithet was heavily involved, as well as for general import/export. Deep sea ships, which could not enter Victoria's Inner Harbour, were accommodated by the new facilities.

Robert Paterson Rithet, fourth son of a respected farmer in Dumfriesshire, Scotland, was mayor of Victoria in 1885 and an MLA from 1894 -1898. A successful businessman, he had a profound influence on the growth of the city.

Although R.P. was not a resident of James Bay, Rithet's Piers were at the centre of a commercial and industrial area which developed in the region. By 1891, the Outer Wharves streetcar line was running. The jobs created led to the influx of families and development of housing throughout James Bay. The Beacon Hill streetcar line was running by 1903. Rithet Street was named in the gentleman's honour.

The wharves, originally dubbed 'Rithet's folly', proved to be a huge success. During the First World War the federal government built the Ogden Point piers as well as the breakwater. At different times, a grain elevator, flour mill, textile mill and biscuit bakery were in business. Other industries were also established. So, too, were rail connections.

In 1941 Rithet's Wharves and 27 surrounding acres were purchased by Victoria Machinery Depot to establish a shipbuilding yard for construction of Liberty Ships for the Merchant Marine. Twenty-five ships were built, including five Flower-class corvette warships. In later years, several BC Ferries were constructed at the VMD site.

 photo by Bob Tuomi

In 1975 the wharves were demolished and work began on a new Coast Guard Station. Today, cruise ships tie up at the federally-built wharves at Ogden Point, from whence the tourists are bused or walk to town. Freighters still tie up at the facility, but it is cruise ships which bring in the people. And now the Canadian Coast Guard is at Rithet's former site on Shoal Point!


Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, "History of Victoria's Harbour", 2013; Wikipedia, "Victoria Harbour (British Columbia)", 2014; Wikipedia, "Robert Paterson Rithet"; BC Archives, photo galleries; Vancouver Public Library, City Directories.