Aqua Vitae: A History of the Saloons and Hotel Bars of Victo…



In April 1858 the Fraser River Gold Rush hit, and the sleepy hamlet of Victoria on Vancouver Island got an economic boost. The population nearly doubled overnight, and suddenly locals were rubbing shoulders with prospectors on their way to the gold-fields of the interior, as well as the regular band of sailors, sealers, whalers and other seafarers who made up Victoria. In those days, a saloon could be found on practically every corner of the city. They were as numerous as coffee shops are today, and alcohol was cheaper and easier to come by than clean drinking water. Between 1851 and 1917 there were hundreds of saloons and hotel bars that dispensed alcohol on a regular basis and they did it twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. This book introduces you to the cast of colorful characters that regularly inhabited those saloons and hotel bars in their heyday. Read about how a young Emily Carr was saved from possible death by the quick actions of an employee of the Bee-hive saloon. Discover the gruesome secret uncovered by a startled worker who was prying up the floorboards of the Omineca saloon. Find out the circumstances surrounding the murder of Mike Powers, the proprietor of the Garrick’s Head, a pub that still does a thriving business today. From the raunchy saloons that lined Victoria’s notorious Johnson street to the lavish high-class hotel-bars like the Driard and the Empress, this book shares the true stories, both humorous and tragic, from the days of swinging doors, smoky bars and five-cent beers.

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