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Published February 6th 2016
Why did they change the name?
First discovered in 1802 by Matthew Flinders and Nicolas Baudin, and then in 1837 by Richard Crozier in the ship HMS Victor, the safe waters of Victor Harbor have become part of South Australia's premier seaside destination. But what happened in the early days when the popular town of Victor Harbor was known by another name - Port Victor.
From 1837 until the early 1860's, the area consisted of few substantial buildings, with the main one being the police station which was located on the point of land that leads to the Causeway. A couple of other buildings and structures helped support a whaling industry that was South Australia's first ever export industry. However this was to change from 1863 when bridges were built over the Inman and Hindmarsh Rivers, which then provided easier access to Police Point and the beginning of organised settlement.
Railway Goods Shed now Whale Centre - Steve Hudson
The town of Port Victor was then laid out on the shores of the harbour as an alternative to the rapidly failing Port Elliot. The horse drawn tram, originating in Goolwa, was then extended from Port Elliot to Port Victor as one of the first pieces of infrastructure to support South Australia's newest port.
It was not long after when the Causeway was finalised. Well, sort of. The original pier was built and headed out halfway towards Granite Island. Completed in 1864, it wasn't long before trade and resident demand pushed for its extension to Granite Island along with the construction of the Granite Island Working Jetty, Screwpile Jetty and breakwater.
As is wont to happen, the opening of international trade then demanded the building of a Customs House which was built on Flinders Parade, as well as necessitating the building of large wool stores to dump and store wool that was awaiting shipment. The buildings are still standing, as is the first public toilet in Port Victor situated between the buildings.
But it appears as though the money didn't stay in the bank for long, with a range of shops popping up alongside the terminus of the railway. The Railway Precinct continued to grow and saw fruit shops, tea rooms, bakehouses and the former long running Davies Shoe Shop during its time as the hub of activity at Port Victor.
Another key attractor for money was hotels, and Port Victor was not shy with these. The Crown was the first in 1865, followed by the Hotel Victor whose early days was spent as a boarding house for maritime workers. The Grosvenor was late on the scene in 1897, and today, of the three hotels, it retains the closest resemblance to its early life.
The growth of the port saw a growth in visitor numbers thus necessitating the establishment of more accommodation options. The first large guest house was built in 1876 and known as Gertymore before becoming the Strathmore. The building in Crozier Road has been renovated several times and is now known as Smugglers Inn.
On the other side of town the need for luxury accommodation was met by the establishment of Warringa, now known as The Anchorage. Originally built in 1910, The Anchorage still operates as a guest house and restaurant today.
With the town continuing to grow, more infrastructure was required. A Town Hall was completed in 1905, followed by the introduction of the iconic wooden railway gates which were installed to address the intersection of heavy rail and road transport. Later the railway station was upgraded to address the needs of the growing town which was starting to become a destination for many Adelaideans.
However a big change was about to be forced upon the town. In 1921 the sailing ship Eugene Schneider confused Port Victor with Port Victoria and ran aground at low tide near the latter port. This incident brought the long running naming confusion to the fore, and ultimately led to the renaming of Port Victor to Victor Harbor.
And as a matter of interest it was a mistake by the Surveyor General in 1921 that led to Victor Harbor being named without a "u". Richard Crozier had initially named the bay with a "u", but the State Government elected to adopt an old archaic English spelling of harbor without the "u" for all South Australian place names. The South Australian Railways refused to conform and to this day they still name the Railway Station as Victor Harbour.
Victor Harbor is 80km and just over an hour south of Adelaide. The Visitor Information Centre at the Causeway, and the nearby Encounter Coast Discovery Centre have plenty of information on Victor Harbor, as well as a host of information on all of the above happenings at old Port Victor. A brochure that details a walk around all of the historical buildings is also available online.
Have been going to Victor since the 1940's and it has to be one of the most interesting and attractive coastal towns in Aust.I remember going to the Screwpile Jetty to visit a small submarine and we were allowed to go onboard and down below deck.I remember there was a guest house ,with a public dining room halfway along the main street on the left hand side heading north,It was white with some black around the doors and windows and some black wrought iron little balconies as I recall..but I have forgotten it's name..one of those buildings that stood out in it's day.I do not think it exists anymore.
Victor was once considered "God's Resting Place" and remained stagnant for many many years,but it is now a vibrant town ,although retired people still like to live there to the end of their days.
As always, enjoy these articles about our state..thanks for that Steve.