A view across Victoria’s harbour is split by more than 100 years on the OnThisSpot app. The app gives users the historical knowledge and imagery they need to be transported back in time. (Victoria Archives AC1-M06964 & On This Spot Enterprises)

A view across Victoria’s harbour is split by more than 100 years on the OnThisSpot app. The app gives users the historical knowledge and imagery they need to be transported back in time. (Victoria Archives AC1-M06964 & On This Spot Enterprises)

History app uses ‘then and now’ photographs of Victoria

OnThisSpot provides historical insight of Canadian cities

A Vancouver-based app provides on scene insight into the history of Canadian cities, including Victoria.

OnThisSpot takes users on guided walking tours, using ‘then and now’ photography and historical information on various street corners, monuments or landmarks. Working with heritage and tourism organizations, the app gives users an on-site glimpse at an otherwise unseen history.

Co-founder and CEO Andrew Farris, who graduated from the University of Victoria’s history program, says he started the idea with a blog while travelling through Asia and Europe. The blog was so popular he brought the concept back to Canada. Now, the OnThisSpot website and app features history and walking tours in more than 20 Canadian cities.

“When you’re looking at photographs of a historical event, seeing the people, seeing the buildings that are gone, you can see how society has evolved over time, what the trends are and how things like fashion and architecture have changed,” Farris said.

READ ALSO: Parents advocate for change of George Jay Elementary name, citing racist history

The app’s website features cross-faded images combining Victoria’s past and present – in one photo, a modern-day SUV drives off a street that fades into a sepia photograph of a horse and buggy-filled roadway, bustling with Victorians of more than a century ago.

In another image, shot down Johnson Street from Douglas, the corner’s Burger King fades into the black and white ramshackle structures of old Victoria.

The app’s Victoria walking tour, The Peopling of Victoria, tells the story of the city before and after the establishment of the Fort Victoria trading post, taking users along a journey that starts with the camas meadows of the Lekwungen people to the arrival of English settlers, the impacts of the BC Gold Rush, the establishment of Chinatown and more.

“It’s really easy to feel separated from history … a lot of people have the assumption there’s very little history in Canada,” Farris said.

“But these photographs can transport you back in time to see that everywhere has a history. That the people of the past had lives, fear, concerns and dreams just like we do.”

Outside of B.C., the app has partnered with cities in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Quebec.

The app is free and can be downloaded on any smartphone.

READ ALSO: Black History Month: Documentary sheds light on black pioneers’ role in Victoria


Do you have a story tip? Email: vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

City of VictoriahistoryTechnology

Just Posted

'I swear that dog is being good,' says photo submitter Karen Jackson.
Vancouver Island looking for a few good caring canine companions

ElderDog’s goal to expand program of assisting older adults in the care and well-being of their dogs

Paige Karczynski is the new executive director of Nanaimo Community Hospice Society. (Photo submitted)
Providing hospice in a time of pandemic

Vancouver Island hospices forced to adapt during a time when grief counselling greatly needed

Kimberly Proctor, 18, was murdered in 2010. Her family has spent many of the years since pushing for a law in her honour, that they say would help to prevent similar tragedies. (Courtesy of Jo-Anne Landolt)
Proposed law honouring murdered B.C. teen at a standstill, lacks government support

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has concerns with involuntary detainment portion of act

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death in North Saanich likely B.C.’s first in for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Bill Reekie and his then-four-year-old granddaughter Lily. Photo contributed
Alzheimer’s: beginning the Unplanned Journey

Watch for the signs and reach out for the help that is available

Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 is International Lego Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 24 to 30

Lego Day, Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day and Puzzle Day are all coming up this week

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

A new well in Youbou is expected to meet the community’s drinking water needs for years, announced Klaus Kuhn, director for Youbou/Meade Creek. (File photo)
New well provides fresh water in Youbou

Well expected to meet community’s needs for years

Action at the Nanaimo Curling Centre. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo sports organizations qualify for COVID-19 relief funding

Province announces support for curling, rowing, gymastics, softball, rugby, squash, football clubs

Ty Wesley, Nicole Darlington and Cameron Macaulay (from left) performed in the Beholder Entertainment production <em>Gender Sucks!</em> in the 2020 Nanaimo Fringe Festival. (Video still courtesy Sam Wharram)
Nanaimo Fringe Festival artist lottery open to local and B.C. playwrights

Organizers hope to stage plays in-person at indoor and outdoor venues this summer

Angela Waldick is the new team photographer for the Nanaimo NightOwls. (Nanaimo NightOwls photo)
Half-blind photographer will help new Island baseball team look picture-perfect

Nanaimo NightOwls say legally blind team photographer is making history

The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Victoria says sale of the planned subdivision will increase the club’s ability to provide services and support. (Courtesy of Association for the Protection of Rural Metchosin)
Victoria Boys and Girls Club says youth would benefit from Metchosin land sale

Club says sale will guarantee supports and programs at time when demand high

Most Read