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Riverview, New Brunswick
June 8, 2007
At that point, we were interrupted by Amor de Cosmos (played by an actor, of course). He had been lured to the California gold fields from his home in Windsor, Nova Scotia and it was there that he had his name changed from the more prosaic William Alexander Smith to Amor de Cosmos. Arriving in Victoria in 1858, he started a newsletter in which he was highly critical of Douglas (How could Douglas be the premier and the head of the HBC at the same time? Conflict of interest.) and his cohort, the "Hanging Judge", Begbie.
Amor de Cosmos would sit in the legislature and push to have British Columbia made a part of Confederation (1871) long before either Saskatchewan or Alberta. One of British Columbia’s most colourful figures, he was a true eccentric. Actually, perhaps a little too eccentric; he was declared insane two years before his death in 1897.
The rest of the visit was somewhat less exciting…a look at the stained glass windows celebrating Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee and Victoria’s 60 years. The Legislative Assembly was in session, so only the galleries were open, and the security is intense enough that I was not inclined to go in. So the visit was somewhat limited, but of course, the actor made a piece of British Columbia history come to life.
From journal Adventures in Lotusland: Victoria
Rodeo, New Mexico
April 19, 2006
Young architect Francis Rattenbury entered and won the competition to build B.C.’s parliament buildings in 1893 shortly after his arrival from England, beating out 64 other architects, many greatly more experienced. Five years later, his "Imperial Garden of Eden", built way over budget, was ready for use. Rattenbury was to achieve further fame by building luxury Canadian Pacific Railway hotels, including the venerable Empress, just around the corner from Parliament, and lovely glass-roofed Crystal Gardens, a former bathing and amusement center built in1925.
Success didn’t bring Rattenbury happiness, however. After divorcing his wife and marrying his mistress, the much younger and talented Alma Pakenham, the couple moved to England. Sinking into alcoholism, Rattenbury was eventually beaten to death with a mallet by Alma’s teenaged lover. Alma committed dramatic suicide shortly thereafter, by stabbing herself in the heart and throwing herself into the River Avon.
Parliament is imposing from afar, viewed across a vast lawn and fountains, with its muted gray limestone and granite walls, arches and columns, and green copper domes. The tallest central dome is topped with a gold-gilt statue of Captain George Vancouver. A statue of Queen Victoria stands on a pedestal above street level at the edge of the lawns. Every night, more than 3300 light bulbs outline buildings, windows and domes of Parliament.
No less impressed by Parliament’s interior, we took one of the free tours that are offered every half hour during summer months. Tour guides range from the commonplace to would-be actors in period costume, affecting behavior and speech of imperial times. Beneath the gilded central dome lies an exquisite mosaic floor. Between the arched doorways are mural-style paintings depicting workers of the province, from farming and forest to fisheries. Virtually all the windows are stained glass and communicate some historically significant event or symbol.
On the walls near the entrance, hang 18 reproductions of architectural and technical drawings by Francis Rattenbury. In a nearby alcove, one can sit and view legislative sessions on a TV, beginning mid-September, when they reconvene. During summer, the red-carpeted multi-leveled legislative chambers sit empty.
From journal Victoria Heritage
New York, New York
April 18, 2002
Most tourists would walk around the grounds and be content with admiring the buildings from the outside. However, there are free guided tours that leave every 30 minutes from the main steps. They will tell the full history of these buildings as well as interesting side notes from Canadian history. The buildings house beautiful stained glass, murals and some interesting monuments.
For more information, check out the official webside of the Parliament Buildings: www.parl-bldgs.gov.bc.ca/. There is a wonderful photo tour as well as indepth information about the history of the buildings and the architect.
From journal Beautiful Victoria
November 13, 2008
From journal Victoria in the Fall
July 19, 2007
From journal Vancouver Island Getaway