Victoria’s Centennial Square, adorned by the iconic Centennial Fountain, faces the prospect of losing its centerpiece as the city council contemplates its removal. The fountain, an integral part of the square for almost six decades, played a pivotal role in a comprehensive revitalization plan that rescued City Hall from potential demolition and breathed new life into downtown Victoria.


The visionary behind this transformative initiative was Richard Biggerstaff Wilson, Victoria’s mayor from 1962 to 1965. Faced with decisions about the aging City Hall and commemorating the city’s 100th anniversary in 1862, Wilson swiftly executed a revitalization plan that reshaped downtown Victoria.


Wilson recognized the need for change to combat suburban allure and prevent the hollowing out of downtown Victoria. The revitalization plan included innovative ideas such as three shopping malls marking Victoria’s borders, multi-storey parking garages, and the restoration of Old Town with a block-square urban mall.


The crowning jewel of the plan was the restoration of City Hall, accompanied by the creation of a new public square, now known as Centennial Square, with the Centennial Fountain at its heart.


Wilson’s vision, inspired by postwar urban design creativity, drew from influential figures such as Jane Jacobs and architect William Wilson Wurster. The revitalization plan aimed to connect various downtown precincts through tree-lined streets and pedestrian alleyways, creating vibrant public spaces like Centennial Square.


The Centennial Fountain, a symbol of Wilson’s bold action and progressive vision, became an enduring part of Victoria’s downtown landscape. As discussions arise about removing this civic icon, its legacy as a symbol of progress and urban renewal remains deeply embedded in the city’s history.


Source: Times Colonist