Lower Johnson Street – LoJo
Victoria, British Columbia
Spending time on Lower Johnson Street is a quintessential Victoria experience. Boutique shops, restaurants, yoga stores and fitness studios, a bakery and hair salons – all terminating with a great view of Victoria’s waterfront and the Johnson Street Bridge.
All buildings on Lower Johnson are brick and masonry heritage buildings from the 1890’s to 1920’s. The street has become a brilliant patchwork of brightly painted buildings interspersed with handsome brick facades. Pink, lime green, and aqua blue with heritage awnings. People on the streets have a truly unique Victoria experience. The charm of days gone by, complemented with some of the hottest styles of today.
Events and Festivals
Lower Johnson is the gateway to Market Square, an internal courtyard with shops that front onto Johnson that allow pedestrians to walk through to the courtyard. In the summer Market Square hosts weekly events such as the Victoria Flea Market , live music, fashion and art shows, and a range of culinary events.
Johnson Street is named after Captain Charles R. Johnson, who was the commander of a 180-foot paddle wheel steam sloop, the HMS Driver, one of the first commercial vessels stationed in Victoria.
In its early days Lower Johnson street was a part of Fort Victoria, established in 1843, the Hudson Bay Company settlement that preceded the creation of the city.
Before the Klondike gold rush of 1896, the street was lined with tents and wooden shacks and was a well-established part of town for saloons, opium dens, gambling houses and brothels. With the onset of the gold rush, money flooded into Victoria and shacks and tents were torn down and replaced with handsome brick hotels, restaurants, bars, and other houses of entertainment.
Although the street got a face-lift, it still remained a haven for drunkenness and lewd behaviors. The street was also a main thoroughfare for the former Victoria streetcar line that wound its way through the city.
Many colorful characters lived or owned hotels on Lower Johnson during the early 20th century. One such character was Captain John Voss, author of the Venturesome Voyages of Captain Voss, a man who circumnavigated the globe in a dugout canoe from 1901-1904. He owned the Queen’s Hotel on Johnson Street and his famous sail around the world began in Victoria.
Lower Johnson has rapidly gentrified over the past 30 years from its humble beginning to one of the most trendy and upbeat streets in the city. The former hotels and saloons have given away to a myriad of boutique shops and restaurants. However, the buildings that once housed the colorful history of Lower Johnson remain largely intact. The heritage buildings have been refurbished for contemporary commercial uses. However, the street maintains its “main-street” feel of human scale buildings.
Lower Johnson is pedestrian friendly and a bike lane is being added in 2016. Bike parking is available and a midblock crosswalk makes it easy for shoppers to move back and forth across the street. A new 40 km speed zone adds to the comfort levels for pedestrians and cyclists.
Lower Johnson is safe for pedestrians and cyclists. The street is also the gateway into Market Square, which is an internal courtyard with ample amenities for all ages, including food and seating areas. Market Square is regularly used for live music concerts and contains a diversity of seating options, including benches, picnic tables, and deep stairs to sit on.