When Craigdarroch Castle started to be built in 1887, it made the announcement to to the world that Robert Dunsmuir was the richest man in Western Canada. Dunsmuir was a scottish immigrant who made his fortune from Vancouver Island coal. The Victorian Mansion was built on a hill overlooking the city of Victoria and is an example of a “bonanza castle”; massive houses built for men who became wealthy during the industrial transformation of British Columbia. The views over Victoria are quite breathtaking and the wood paneling throughout the house is especially beautiful.
Tragically, Robert Dunsmuir passed away in 1889 just before the Castle was completed . His entire estate was left entirely to his widow, Joan and was said to be values at $15 -$20 Million US Dollars in 1888. Joan moved in after completion and lived there until her death in 1908. Joan, their three daughters and two orphaned grandchildren were the only people to ever live on the original 28-acre estate.
The four-story historic Craigdarroch Castle still has lavish furnishings from the 1890’s and is known for its stained-glass and intricate woodwork. It has one of North America’s finest collections of Victorian residential stained glass windows. It is visits like these where we wonder if we were born in the wrong era, after seeing all the the lavish Victoria-era furnishings throughout Craigdarroch Castle.
The Castle decor and stories from the self-guided tour did a good job of portraying what life was like for the privileged owners in the 1890’s and beyond. It was also later converted into a military hospital, college, and music conservatory before being restored to what it is today.
Know Before You Go
- Craigdarroch Castle is NOT wheelchair or stroller friendly.
- You must be able to walk up and down several flights of stairs to see the rooms.
- There was parking at the castle, but not a whole lot. On a very busy day, assume you will have trouble finding a spot.
Castle Quick Facts:
- Craigdarroch means “rocky oak place” in Gaelic.
- The castle is 25,572 sq. ft. including the basement.
- There are 17 fireplaces and seven chimney stacks.
- The castle had: gas lighting as well as electric lighting; hot and cold running water for indoor plumbing; central heating; telephones; and a burglar alarm system.
Take a look at the grand “Castle” and a small portion of the great Victorian-era decor you’ll find inside:
It’s definitely worth an hour of your time to see this “castle” and a glimpse of life for the rich in famous in the late 1800’s. With the support of approximately 140,000 visitors a year, contributions made by volunteers, this designated National Heritage Site should remain a beauty for years to come.
Disclaimer: Our visit was sponsored in-part by Craigdarroch Castle Historical Museum Society, but as always, our opinions are our own.
Where have you found an interesting piece of history on your travels?