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

Sasha Perron of Langford is preparing to run a half marathon on Saturday, 10 kilometres Sunday, 21.5 km on Tuesday and so on until he’s totalled 216 kilometres. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Indigenous man to run 215 kilometres, plus one for children waiting to be found

Donations to Sasha Perron’s fundraiser to benefit Indian Residential School Survivors Society

Victoria police are searching for high-risk missing woman Chloe Morrison who was last seen in Victoria June 13. (Courtesy of VicPD)
MISSING: Chloe Morrison, last seen in Victoria

Morrison, 25, was last seen shortly after 2 p.m. June 13

Proposed design for the Topaz Park bike and skate park elements. (Courtesy City of Victoria)
Victoria requesting feedback on Topaz Park redesign

Public input now being taken for proposed skate, bike park ideas

Processed sewage is still being deposited at the Hartland landfill rather than sent as biosolids to a Richmond cement plant. (Black Press Media file photo)
Biosolids at Hartland still being placed on landfill in Saanich

Richmond cement plant up and running, but CRD end product not suitable for purpose

Saanich Neighbourhood Place is hoping to open the doors to its new centre in July, pending final council approval. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich childcare agency awaits final approval on much-needed new facility

Saanich Neighbourhood Place keen to open new centre this summer, expand options for community

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

Port Alberni court house (Alberni Valley News)
Coroners’ inquest into 2016 death of Port Alberni teen rescheduled for June 21

18-year-old Jocelyn George died of heart failure after spending time in jail cell

Children’s shoes and flowers are shown after being placed outside the Ontario legislature in Toronto on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ontario commits $10 million to investigate burial sites at residential schools

Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified 12 locations of unmarked burial sites in Ontario

Singer-songwriter Jann Arden is pictured with a draft horse. (Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)
Jann Arden backs petition to stop ‘appalling’ live horse export, slaughter

June 14 is the International Day to End Live Export of Animals

Two hundred and fifteen lights are placed on the lawn outside the Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., Saturday, June, 13, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Days after Kamloops remains discovery, Tk’emlups families gather to unite, move ahead

‘We have to work together because this is going to be setting a precedent for the rest of the country’

In this Saturday, May 29, 2021, file photo, people crowd the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, Calif. California, the first state in America to put in place a coronavirus lockdown, is now turning a page on the pandemic. Most of California’s coronavirus restrictions will disappear Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
With COVID tamed, it’s a ‘grand reopening’ in California

No more state rules on social distancing, no more limits on capacity, no more mandatory masks

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

Neighbours fight a small late-night bush fire with garden hoses and shovels in Cinnabar Valley on June 5. They couldn’t get help from local fire services because the fire was located in an area under B.C. Wildfire Services jurisdiction. (Photo courtesy Muriel Wells)
Neighbours on edge of Nanaimo city limits left to put out bush fire themselves

Cinnabar Valley residents tackle fire with hoses and buckets for two and a half hours

Most Read