Craigdarroch Castle is a definitively Victorian experience. It is a shining example of a “bonanza castle” — massive houses built for entrepreneurs who became wealthy during the industrial age. In this case, the industrialist was Robert Dunsmuir, a Scottish immigrant who made his fortune from Vancouver Island coal.
This legendary Victorian mansion, built between 1887 and 1890 on a hill overlooking the City of Victoria, announced to the world that Robert Dunsmuir was the richest and most important man in Western Canada.
He died in 1889, leaving his entire estate to his wife Joan, who lived in the Castle until her death in 1908.
The immense fortune of the Dunsmuir family is reflected in the four floors of exquisite stained glass windows, intricate woodwork and fabulous Victorian-era furnishings.
Conserving Craigdarroch is not an easy task. Historic photographs of the building and the surrounding landscape offer invaluable help in understanding how the Castle and its grounds used to look. Have old photographs? We want to hear from you!
After the passing of Mrs. Dunsmuir, Craigdarroch was extensively renovated by the federal Department of Soldiers Civil Re-establishment (DSCR) prior to opening as a military hospital in September, 1919. It also served as a college and music conservatory.
The Castle Society was founded more than 50 years ago by the late President James K. Nesbitt. The Society’s 1959 Constitution contained certain clauses describing collection policy, most notably that furniture, bric-a-brac, photographs and other historic objects for the Castle rooms must appear as much as possible as they were from 1890 to 1908, when Mrs. Robert Dunsmuir occupied the Castle.
In the 1880’s and 90’s architects a Romanesque revival was underway that was influencing architects of the time. Leading the charge was American architect H.H. Richardson. What later became known as the “Richardsonian Romanesque” style can be seen throughout Craigdarroch Castle’s construction.
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Robert and Joan Dunsmuir had two sons, eight daughters and plenty of exploits. The Castle weaves a fascinating tale of this intriguing family – their achievements, their relationships and even their quirks.
Built by coal baron Robert Dunsmuir during the reign of Queen Victoria and now a National Historic Site, Craigdarroch Castle has been meticulously restored, giving visitors a glimpse of privileged life in the 1890s.
We are open daily from 10am – 4:30pm, with extended hours from June 15th to September 6th (9am – 7pm). (Please note that we are closed December 25th, 26th and January 1st)