The Castle’s coat of many colours.
Craigdarroch Castle has served the Greater Victoria community in so many ways and we are so happy to continue the legacy.
THE MILITARY HOSPITAL ERA
Soon after Joan Dunsmuir died at Craigdarroch, her daughters sold the Castle to local real estate developer Griffith Hughes. The 28-acre estate was then sub-divided and the Castle raffled. The lucky winners were Solomon Cameron and Parker Clarke. Cameron’s brother, Thomas A. Cameron lived here until his death in 1917. Eventually, Solomon Cameron lost the Castle to the Bank of Montreal over unpaid debts. Craigdarroch’s institutional life began and continued into the 1970’s before being taken over by The Craigdarroch Castle Historical Museum Society.
Craigdarroch was extensively renovated by the federal Department of Soldiers Civil Re-establishment (DSCR) prior to opening as a military hospital in September, 1919. The original kitchen was replaced and internal walls reconfigured on almost every floor. New sinks, bathrooms and hydrotherapy facilities were installed.
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.
James K. Nesbitt, the Castle Society’s founding president enlisted the support of Premier WAC Bennett, the Mayor, the Lt. Governor and just about anyone else he could find with influence to establish a Heritage Society to preserve the Castle. The Society was established in 1959 and in 1969 Mr. Nesbitt succeeded in gaining access to Craigdarroch Castle but found that the Society would only occupy a portion of the manor as it would be sharing space with another new tenant!
That tenant was the Victoria Conservatory of Music who among other things proceeded to move 30 pianos into the castle. The music school used the vast majority of space in the Castle for classrooms and the Castle Society had access to about 20% of the rooms primarily located on the main floor. The Society’s intent was to restore these rooms and open displays to the public so the Conservatory’s activities created tensions as did the wear and tear of young music students marching up and down the staircase with instruments in tow.
In 1979, stretched for space and looking for a home to call its own the Music Conservatory vacated Craigdarroch and for a dollar, the City transferred responsibility of the castle’s future to the Society in 1994.
Despite the growing pains of both organizations Craigdarroch Castle and the Victoria Conservatory of Music continue to have a wonderful working relationship and you will often find current or former Conservatory Students performing at Craigdarroch during events.
WANT TO LEARN MORE?
WHY NOT BECOME A VOLUNTEER?
The Craigdarroch Castle Historical Museum Society is so thankful for our incredible team of dedicated and friendly volunteers. Volunteering at Craigdarroch is a fantastic opportunity to meet new friends and contribute to the legacy of our community.
MEET THE DUNSMUIRS
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.Learn More
ABOUT THE CASTLE
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.Learn More
PLAN YOUR VISIT
We are open for tours Thursday through Sunday from 10:00am – 4:00pm (closed Monday & Tuesday), (Please note that we are closed December 25th, 26th, and January 1st.)Learn More