This article was published on November 17th, 2013
Pronounced Craig Derek, Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria, British Columbia is a shining example of a home built from the North American industrial revolution. The castle’s name is Gaelic for “Rocky Oak Place”, which describes the original 28-acre estate, owned by Robert Dunsmuir.
When Robert Dunsmuir struck it rich in the railway industry he quickly began investing in real estate. He started in 1882 by acquiring a five acre plot of land in Victoria, B.C., and over the next five years would purchase a total of 28 acres, making the original estimate. Today, 1.75 acres remain of the original estate, the remaining acres were parceled off in 1909 and beyond to form what is now called the Rockland neighbourhood.
Dunsmuir hired Warren Heywood Williams, a prominent Portland, Oregon, architect to design the home. Construction began in 1887 and took 37 months to complete. Unfortunately, Williams would never see his work completed, and Arthur L. Smith, from the same firm, would see to the competition of the project in 1890.
The castle boasts 26,000 sq ft of space, including the living quarters, balconies and the basement. The finest supplies and materials came from across North America to create the masterpiece:
- Red slate roof – Vermont / New York
- Interior oak paneling – Arkansas
- Spanish mahogany (library), western red cedar (Porte Cochere entrance), cherry (breakfast room), Hawaiian koa (drawing room), and a variety of exotic woods (parquet floors throughout)
Craigdarroch Castle also features one of North America’s best collections of Victorian residential stained and leaded glass. Of the original 47 original art glass windows, 32 are still in tact. The majority feature floral and foliage themes, however, a few depicted historical figures.
While Craigdarroch Castle is open year-round, special Christmas tours are hosted throughout the month of December. The special holiday tour, led by guides in period-appropriate costumes, explains Victorian Christmas traditions and some of the Dunsmuir family.