What can the buildings in a neighbourhood teach us? How can we find the stories behind the bricks and mortar? The Hallmark Society embarked on an ambitious photographic documentation of three Victoria neighbourhoods in the spring of 2001.
Funded by the BC Arts and Heritage Fund and the CURA program at UVic, the project hired two students to photograph every structure, landmark feature and streetscape in the three areas while four students undertook extensive research in the City of Victoria archives. Over 6,000 photographs were taken. Public input was sought through open meetings and articles in the Fairfield Observer. The stories gathered from the people who live, work and play in the structures helped construct the social and architectural history of some of the oldest areas in the city. A partnership with the Victoria Heritage Foundation allowed access to recent and key information catalogued from building plans at Victoria City Hall.
A large, portable display with multiple panels, outlining the project and the research was constructed. The panels highlight and examine examples of the diverse architectural styles in the Gonzales and Fairfield areas. The display entitled “Fairfield Vernacular” has been set up in public spaces in Victoria, was exhibited at Hallmark Society Awards Night (May 7, 2002). It is available in pdf format on the Hallmark Society web site under "Special Projects."
The project has had a positive impact on other communities in the Capital Regional District as well. Helen Edwards was a speaker at the Blanshard Community Centre when a heritage inventory of that area was discussed. Stories gleaned from this research were included in a paper "Fairfield, Victoria: Neighbourhood Stories in Architecture," by Helen Edwards presented at Untold Stories of British Columbia, a public conference co-hosted by CURA and the Humanities Centre in March, 2002. The paper was subsequently printed in the conference anthology, Untold Stories of British Columbia, published by the Humanities Centre in 2003.
While the UVic CURA program has drawn to a close, the Hallmark Society Streetscape Project continues, with both UVic and the Hallmark Society playing an active role in researching and documenting the heritage of Fairfield buildings.