Results 1-10of 11 Reviews
June 8, 2009
From journal Pacific Northwest Cruise: The Swine Flu Switch-a-roo
November 11, 2007
From journal Victoria in the Fall
Rodeo, New Mexico
April 20, 2006
Joan Dunsmuir, three daughters, and two grandchildren began living in Craigdarroch in 1890. Lavishly furnished bedrooms and sitting rooms belonging to family and more modest servants’ quarters are found on the second and third floors.
But it’s on the fourth floor that you’ll discover the crowning jewel of Craigdarroch, its tower. Rounded doors fit perfectly in circular walls. The spectacular views include downtown Victoria, James Bay, and further out, Mt. Douglas, Mt. Tolmie, and Little Saanich Mountain. Colorful imported English tiles decorate the tower floor. Talk about feeling "above it all"!
Much of the fourth floor is a wide-open dance hall, with an 1879 Steinway piano which visitors with musical ability are invited to play. The self-guided tour takes you up all four floors on one side of the castle, and back down again on the other. Second and third floors house fully and partially restored rooms, as well as public washrooms and volunteer offices.
Specialized rooms are encountered on the first floor on the way out. In front of me, a (presumably) Canadian host was explaining some of the rooms to his foreign guest. "This is the smoking room"… "a room, just for smoking - ?" "Yes, and only for men. And this, is the breakfast room…" "You mean, this room, only for breakfast???" "Yes, the larger dining room was upstairs…" Though opulent and elegant, it does seem a bit redundant.
Exit is through the museum store, formerly the kitchen. As Bob was finishing up his tour inside, I wandered around the historic structure and thought about the castle, its creators and inhabitants. Robert Dunsmuir, self-made laird and entrepreneur, didn’t live to see Craigdarroch’s completion. Its architect, Warren Williams, died only four months after construction began.
Joan Dunsmuir, who lived at Craigdarroch until her death in 1908, reportedly had a strained relationship with her husband already years before his death, and ongoing conflicts and legal issues with her two sons. Delaying marrying his divorced mistress for 20 years due to his mother’s disapproval and financial clout, younger son Alex died only 6 weeks after finally wedding his lover. Older son James eventually became premier of British Columbia, but due to conflict with his mother over Alex’s will, they never spoke to one another again.
Craigdarroch is not handicap accessible. Open daily 10AM to 4:30PM. Extended hours June 15 – Labor Day 9AM to 7PM. Rates: $11.50CD adults, $10.75CD seniors, $7.50CD students, $3.50CD age 6-18, free 5 and under.
From journal Victoria Heritage
We viewed Craigdarroch on a volatile Victoria morning, brilliant sun and piercing blue sky vying with white billowy clouds. It’s well worth the $11.50CD admission for self-guided tour. Its 29 rooms on four floors contain 17 fireplaces, extensive wood paneling, a profusion of fine stained glass windows, and period furnishings. Craigdarroch encompasses 25,572 square feet.
We learn from one of the circulating docents that the majority of paneling in the castle is actually pre-fab! More than 2000 white oak panels manufactured in Chicago, were shipped by railroad to the estate. The massive white Main Hall fireplace sports a Shakespeare quote from the tragedy Troilus and Cressida: Welcome ever smiles and farewell goes out sighing.
Indeed, elements of tragedy reoccur frequently in the Dunsmuir family of Craigdarroch. Robert died in 1889, before the castle was completed. Contrary to what he’d promised prior to his death, he left nothing to his two grown sons, who’d been managing much of the family business on the island and in San Francisco. Instead, he left his entire estate to his wife. It took ten years of negotiations between Joan and sons before she gave them title to the San Francisco business, and allowed them to purchase the family coalmines on Vancouver Island.
Wherever you wander in Craigdarroch, you’ll encounter exquisite stained glass windows. All but one is original, considered among the finest collections of Victorian residential stained glass on the West Coast. Curiously, the pamphlet states they "are believed to be" produced by an American studio.
Craigdarroch today is an ongoing labor of love, adopted by Craigdarroch Castle Historical Museum Society. Following Joan’s death in 1909, it was sold and served sequentially as a military hospital, college classrooms, offices for Victoria School Board, and home for Victoria Conservatory of Music. Over time, students carved their initials into the woodwork, rooms were divided up as seen fit, floors linoleumed over, and coat after coat of paint applied.
Since 1969, the Museum Society’s mission has been to restore and conserve the castle as an historic house, to its 1890 condition. A fine art conservator is restoring the hand-painted drawing room ceiling. It’s painstaking work using solvent applied with q-tips and cotton balls. Elaborate fleur-de-lis and lion head designs are once more seeing the light of day after being liberated from underneath five coats of latex paint. Continue tour and history in Craigdarroch II.
January 11, 2004
From journal Victoria BC at Christmas
July 29, 2003
From journal Victoria, BC
April 4, 2003
From journal Victoria - Sparkling Gem
by Barber E. Lane
Lake Forest, California
February 16, 2003
Craigdorrach Castle was built by a wealthy timber barron, Mr. Dunsmuir, as fulfillment of a promise made to his wife that when they made their fortune on Vancouver Island, he'd build her a castle, which is what he did.
The builder, himself, never lived in the completed home, but his wife and many generations of children and grandchildren have enjoyed living there until it was donated as a historical property.
The most striking feature of the large castle/home is the beautiful stained glass windows and woodworking found in every room of the house. The grand staircase seen upon entry is magnificent with beautiful woods used on treads, banisters, walls, and ceilings.
Each of the rooms has a character of its own with the parlor/sitting room's painted walls and high ceilings and the recreation room and its oversized, 12 foot pool table being especially notable. Stained glass windows on each floors stair landing are gorgeous. Off the stair landing on the upper floor is a glassed octagonal turret room, which would have made a perfect place for the children's imagination to transport them to a pirate ship or European castle. There is a view of the entire inner harbor area from this vantage point.
Upon exiting you are led through the obligatory gift shop to pick up any souvenirs you might desire. It does not take long to tour the castle, it's a self-guided tour, about an hour.
The Grey Line tour bus, buses 10, 11, and 14, has it perfectly timed from drop off to pick up about two blocks down the hill, so your wait is minimal. It was an enjoyable tour.
From journal Flowers, Flowers, Everywhere - Charming Victoria
November 1, 2002
A scenic tour of the downtown inner harbor area gave us ideas for where we wanted to walk to for shopping and food afterwards. The bus dropped us off at the base of a gently climbing hill about a block from the Castle, a part of Victoria's history and settling. We were glad it wasn't any farther up the hill. Tours of the castle are ongoing so we walked right in (See separate journal entry on the Castle experience). They had the timing perfect. When we walked back to the drop off/pick up spot, a bus came along within minutes for reboarding and continuation of the tour. This was exactly enough time to add to a young, eight or nine year old entrepenour's college fund by purchasing a much needed and welcomed drink of Kool-Aid and homemade cookies for $.65 U.S. Great location for booming sales.
The bus tour continued through the west side of Victoria and then headed toward the northeast. This area of Victoria is the more luxurious homes and many golf courses. The history of Oak Bay was fascinating, as was viewing the beautiful housing area. The various monuments, totem park, and harbors were described. I felt like Lucille Ball on one of her TV show's famous tours of the stars homes in Hollywood. Many a wealthy, if not famous, person's name was dropped as we passed their estate.
The bus made a 20 minute bathroom and snack stop at the marina on the southern coast east of downtown.
The tour director was helpful in selecting our restaurant for the evenings meal and he was right on. The Blue Crab was an amazing gastronomical treat.
This tour was a great overview of the city and gave us much needed information on how we chose to spend our limited time seeing the most. We were dropped off at the end of the tour right in front of The Empress Hotel, giving us yet another chance to marvel at the beauty of the Inner Harbour.