Founded in 1903 as an affiliate of McGill University in Montreal, Victoria College had been dissolved in 1915 when a new university, the University of British Columbia, was established in Vancouver, B.C.
A local lobby group, spear-headed by Victoria College founder Dr. Edward Burness Paul, was successful in having the College reinstated in 1920. The re-opened College was housed in the new Victoria High School building (located near Craigdarroch Castle) but the situation was not ideal for either the high school or the College. When Dr. Paul learned that the Craigdarroch Military Hospital would be closed, he seized the opportunity to propose Victoria College as a new tenant for Craigdarroch. His proposal was accepted and preparations were started for the move.
At the Castle, the rooms that once housed recuperating veterans were modified again to accommodate the first cohort of students. For example, the double drawing room became a classroom for the instruction of English and History. The library was converted into the Registrar’s Office. The formal dining room, fitted out with slatted benches, became the math classroom. The college library was housed in the fourth floor dance hall. Bedrooms on the second and third floors were converted either into classrooms, common rooms or offices.
From 1921 to 1944, enrolment in Victoria College seldom reached more than 250. In 1945, however, 128 servicemen returning from World War II increased enrolment to 400. Every available space was commandeered for classroom and study purposes, even food services were suspended so the kitchen could be converted into a classroom. By 1946, the level of enrolment reached 600, an intolerable number for the building. Health & safety issues became a major concern. As an interim measure, an army hut was moved onto the grounds and converted into two classrooms but the need for new premises was critical.
After students staged a protest march to the Provincial Legislature Buildings to bring their plight into the public eye, it was agreed that Victoria College would be moved into the campus of the Normal School (for teacher training) that had also been recently vacated as a military hospital. The Victoria School Board, which had purchased Craigdarroch Castle from the Bank of Montreal in 1929, then decided to move their offices into the Castle and when the College vacated, more modifications were made to create office space.
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