On my way home from the the downtown Vancouver public library, I usually walk along Hamilton Street and then take the shortcut through Victory Square at 200 West Hastings Street. People are divided in their opinion about Victory Square. Some see it as a dangerous place, filled with “shifty” drug addicts and unsafe and for families to take their children. Other people think it’s a suitable place for a nap on the grass.
What do I think of Victory Square?
1. It is safe enough. In the daytime I feel completely at ease. The square is in a highly visible area and there are usually people around. At night the square is well lit and I would walk through it if someone was with me.
2. There are drugs and possibly prostitution. Sometimes people smoke pot there. Once in the afternoon, I saw a middle aged woman standing by the entrance of the men’s public washroom. I think she was waiting for a customer.
3. Protests meet there. Victory Square is located at a very busy intersection and this ensures high visibility by both car and foot traffic. The war memorial monument stands as a symbolic reminder of the war dead, people who died fighting for their beliefs, which in turn lends strength and moral high ground to social causes that gather at Victory Square.
4. The grass is vital. Public green space downtown is important: people need a place to rest without feeling out of place. Some people are homeless, some are backpackers on the road while others have stories we cannot guess. Once I saw an old lady sitting daintily on the grass beside her shoulder bag and one small gray suitcase.
5. It is being used by the 9-5pm crowd. I often see people eating their lunch outside or taking breaks in the park during sunny afternoons.
6. It’s busy but laid back. Yesterday, I was walking home from the library at around 7:30pm and when I reached the square I saw it was humming at a low buzz with human activity. There was stick fighting, street vending, napping, a possible date outing, bro-mance groupings, and of course, solitary contemplation. Victory Square is not as dangerous as you may think. A variety of people hangout there and together, their activities create a laid back urban park vibe.
I saw some people practicing stick fighting. They are the reason I whipped out my camera and decided to write a post on Victory Square. At first I thought it was a form of martial arts, but only because the cracks of sticks striking sticks reminded me of nun-chucks. Then I started to doubt the deadliness of their activity. One pair moved too slowly. Not as slow as Tai Chi practitioners but slow enough that I briefly wondered if they were learning a dance form. But no, they are not dancers. Perhaps they are Academie Duello (412 West Hastings Street) students practicing beginners swordplay? There is a simple explanation that is obvious to someone. Do you know? I’ll ask them next time I see them.
A girl selling sketches, pins, clips, bracelets, frisbees and other knickknacks.
In the background a group of guys sit in the sun around the edge of the stage while a solitary man contemplates on a bench.
Two young friends sit under a tree chatting and watching traffic go by.
The Victory Square Cenotaph is 30 feet tall and is on the northeast corner facing the intersection of Hastings and Cambie Street. It is situated so that it appears centrally placed at the end of Hastings Street to westbound traffic heading downtown. The three sided Victory Square Cenotaph was designed by Major G.L. Thornton Sharp to echo the triangular shape of the park. The inscriptions on each side:
Facing Hastings Street: “Their name liveth for evermore” and, within a stone wreath, “1914-1918.”
Facing Hamilton Street: “Is it nothing to you.”
Facing Pender Street: “All ye that pass by.”