My postcard is unused and has no caption. I acquired it on a hunch. One clue as to the locale is the tree branch at right, which look like a Garry oak’s. So the picture could have been taken on any flat south of the Comox Valley, west of Chilliwack or north of California. I had a feeling the locale could be determined if the building in the background at right could be positively identified. I scrutinized images of agricultural exhibition buildings in the BC Archives Visual Records database. Exhibition buildings at the Willows Fairground depicted there were plainly not of the same design. I showed the photo to ever-alert Oak Bay archivist Jean Sparks. She produced the clipping below, a bird’s-eye view of the southern approach to the grounds. There’s a near-perfect match with the building just to the right of and beyond the big tree in the middle of the boulevard — the arena-like structure with the entrance of a stylized square tower topped with battlements. (Click on the image to enlarge.) The roofline is different: the image on the postcard shows a line of windows that isn’t in the Cecil Clark photo. More than likely the roof was modified in the interim. All other windows match; shapes match; location matches. Gary Wilcox’s excellent Oak Bay Encyclopedia website has a sketch map of the Willows Fairground in the 1940s, drawn by long-time neighbour Dave Unwin. That edifice was the Industrial building, purpose-built for exhibitions, I gather.
Visible on the postcard, in the distance at left, is the fairground portal off Fair Street, near the terminus of the Fort streetcar. (In Jean’s photo, there seems to be a gatehouse and guard where the portal was. To me that suggests the postcard image was earlier than Jean’s. Hmm, it can’t be both earlier and later.)
The portal can be seen in perspective in an earlier photo in the Oak Bay Archives. Looming beyond was the old Exhibition Building (1889-1907), our Crystal Palace.
Next: the horsemen.