We left Victoria after breakfast and drove west to Hatley Park. We had to take a convoluted route due to construction detours but we arrived in time to book the 11:45 guided tour of the castle.
The castle was built in a year and a half for wealthy mine and railway owner James Dunsmuir and his wife Laura. It was completed in 1908 and was their retirement home. James hired over a hundred labourers, 62 stone masons and dozens of finish carpenters so the house would be built quickly. His father Robert had commissioned Craigdarroch Castle as his retirment home but died before it was finished and James did not want to risk the same thing happening to him. In 1910 he sold all of his coal mines, railway interests and all Dunsmuir businesses for $11,000,000 to retire and hunt, fish, golf and spend time on his yacht. He died in 1920 at the age of 69. His wife Laura lived in the house until her death in 1937. The Dunsmuirs had eight daughters and two sons, yet when Laura died her will stated that everything in the castle and the property were to be sold and the money distributed to the surviving adult children. Very few items in the castle are original.
The property sat vacant for three years after her death with no buyers. WW11 had started and in 1940 the Dominion of Canada bought the house and over 500 acres for $75,000. The stone wall that surrounds the estate and the greenhouses each cost that much money. Most of the records pertaining to construction of the castle were destroyed after Laura’s death, but it has been estimated that the castle alone cost about $350,000 to build. There were many other buildings like stables and barns, etc. that have been destroyed over the years. When the govenment bought Hatley Park it was to be used to train naval officers and after the war it became Royal Roads Military College until 1995. Today it is a public college that is leased from the Ministry of Defense for $1 per year. However, the college must maintain the buildings and grounds, so they do pay a substantial amount for upkeep. Hatley Park, despite being a working college is also a Canadian Historic Site.This is the back of the castle that looks out onto Juan de Fuca Strait..The front of the castle.
At the top of these stairs there was a French garden, however when the property became Royal Roads College the garden was removed for the Grant Building which contains classrooms and administrative offices. There is another college building behind the Grant. At the top of the stairs there is a statue of King Neptune that used to reside in the French Garden. A group of naval officers were not about to remove a statue of the King of the Sea so it was moved to the top of the staircase.
The second floor of the castle is used by college administration so we only toured the rooms on the main floor and the small museum in the basement.A lovely large entrance hall with a double staircase to the upper floor. The dining room. The three tables and sets of chairs were made by cadets of Royal Roads Military College. It was tradition that each graduating class make a table and set of chairs. The lovely large mirror was one of two in the drawing room. Both were sold at the auction after Laura Dunsmuir’s death. The family of the purchaser donated it back to Hatley Park. There is a desk and small table and chairs in the basment museum that were recently returned to the estate as well.The view from from the terrace outside the drawing room. The library, which was converted to an officers bar during the Royal Roads years.
The billard table was also sold at the auction but it is made of five slabs of slate and the purchaser could not get it out of the room so he donated it back to the castle. The legs can be removed and the table taken out on edge, but the fellow didn’t figure that out. Various rooms in the castle have been used for movie films and the billiard table has been taken out of the room several times for filming.
The tour ended in the Italian Garden.
We went up to the cafe in the Grant Building and had some lunch then came back and wandered through all the gardens. There is no cost of see the gardens. Sadly, other than the Italian Garden and the croquet lawn below it which are beautifully maintined, the rest of the gardens are very over grown and unkempt. But, it is a working college and their priority is the buildings and education, not expansive gardens. During the Dunsmuir days James and Laura employed 120 gardeners. Not possible for the college to do. There are upper and lower Japanese gardens that were created by a prominent Japanese landscape designer. The beautiful big pond in the lower Japanese garden is filling up with weeds and algae. It would need a lot of work to restore. The majority of the roses in the Rose Garden were finished blooming but there were still a few pretty ones to be seen – and some other nice flowers too. The Walled Garden and the Bog Garden were both very overgrown so all my photos just look cluttered.
We finally left Hatley Park at 3:30 and drove back to Coburg Peninsula to get a couple of geocaches along the Esquimalt Lagoon Barrier Spit. The lagoon is home to many species of birds including trumpeter swans, mute swans, and herons. There were over a dozen herons wading in the water when we were there. We left the spit and headed for Sooke where we are staying for three nights in a cute little cottage on a quiet side road. We got stuck in the same slow-moving traffic as yesterday and took forever to get to the store for a few dinner and breakfast groceries. By the time we got back to Wisteria Cottage it was almost 7 so we had a late dinner before the usual evening activities of photo sorting and blog writing. Tomorrow, I suspect, will be a quieter, slower day. My feet need a break.