Canadian Castles: Craigdarroch Castle, Victoria BC

Craigdarroch Castle Victoria BC. (Photo Credit: Laura Waldie, 2012)

Craigdarroch Castle Victoria BC. (Photo Credit: Laura Waldie, 2012)

I bet when you think of Canadian built heritage and industrial history, a castle is not the first thing to come to mind. However, Canada does have a number of “castles” that acted as stately homes. These castles, as with many nineteenth century stately homes built across Canada, were built by industrialists as a testament to their power and wealth during the Victorian and Edwardian periods. For many, when that power and wealth faded, the families were forced to sell these homes. Fortunately, many of these buildings have been saved and are now spectacular public institutions which have earned Canadian National Historic Site status. In the first part of our series on “Canadian Castles”, we’ll go out west to Victoria, British Columbia and feature the first of two castles built by the Dunsmuir family: Craigdarroch Castle.

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Then Man Behind the Poem: Guelph, Ontario’s Lt. Col. John McCrae

John McCrae as a physician in Montreal, 1912

John McCrae as a physician in Montreal, 1912 (Photo Credit: Guelph Museums)

When someone is asked today “Who was Lt. Col. John McCrae?”, nearly everyone will answer that he was a physician with the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the Great War of 1914-1918 who just happened to write the most famous war poem of all time. This poem, ‘In Flanders Fields’ would become a global symbol of war remembrance still in use almost a century after McCrae’s death. Yet, what is least common, is who was John McCrae the man? There are a lot of interesting little stories about the non-military side of John McCrae that a lot of people don’t know. For example, what was the one thing he did to ease the pain of a dying child in Montreal, what special thing did he do for his nieces and nephews back home in Guelph while he was at war, and who was the young woman who captured his heart? Read on and I’ll fill you in on some stories about Guelph most famous son plus I’ll show you some rarely seen pictures, courtesy of Guelph Museums, of John McCrae the man.

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Mapping Canada’s Built Heritage: The Fire Insurance Plans of Charles Edward Goad.

Cunard Wharfs in Halifax. (Photo Credit: Library and Archives Canada)

Cunard Wharfs in Halifax. (Photo Credit: Library and Archives Canada)

Having long been used as an invaluable tool for researchers, planners, architects, insurance adjusters, and even environmental consultants, fire insurance plans can tell us a lot about the history of our cities and towns. Not only do they show us what materials a building was constructed from, but also other information such as what the street names and addresses were, property setbacks, location of openings such as doors and windows, and the purpose of the building at that time. There was one company that dominated the fire insurance plan industry in Canada between 1875 and 1917. That was the firm of Charles E. Goad, Civil Engineers of Montréal. By 1910, his firm had produced detailed fire insurance plans for over 1300 cities and towns in Canada, plus hundreds more around the world. In this week’s article, I’ll show you how to read a fire insurance plan and how you might find one useful if you live or work in an older building.

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Remembering St. John’s Ward: The Images of Toronto City Photographer, Arthur S. Goss

Rear of 114-120 Elizabeth Street, Arthur Goss, 1936 (Photo Credit: City of Toronto Archives)

Rear of 114-120 Elizabeth Street, Arthur Goss, 1936 (Photo Credit: City of Toronto Archives)

I was doing some research this week on the history of another part of Toronto by looking at Charles E. Goad’s fire insurance plans. That side tracked me a little bit into thinking about how much Toronto has changed over the past century. I’ve always been fascinated with the area around old St. John’s Ward, which now roughly comprises Nathan Phillips Square, Old City Hall, Osgoode Hall, Trinity Church and the Eaton’s Centre. This area has changed dramatically since Goad recorded the area in 1884 and again in 1912. Although Goad recorded the basic information about building materials and street layouts in this area, it wasn’t until the early decades of the twentieth century which saw the area officially documented photographically for the first time. Two of the best known photographers of this area were William James and Arthur Goss. This week’s article will examine the photographs of Arthur Goss from St. John’s Ward.

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Portrait of a Nation: The Photographs of William Notman and Son Studios

William Notman with sons William McFarlane, Geroge and Charles in Montreal 1890

William Notman with sons William McFarlane, Geroge and Charles in Montreal 1890

The nineteenth century was a pioneering time on so many levels for Canadian society. It was a great century for the expansion of the west, the Confederation of the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada and scientific discoveries led to the development of the telegraph, electric power and the automobile by the end of the century. Yet, in these developments, there was an artistic revolution happening in the heart of Canada’s cultural mecca of Montréal. That revolution, which would transform Canadian society from coast to coast, was the development of photography. Throughout the nineteenth century, and well into the twentieth, an image of Canada was broadcast to the rest of the world as a place of beauty, grandeur and vast diversity in its landscapes and its people. At the forefront of that revolution of photographic wonder was the William Notman and Son Studio from Montréal.

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Great Canadian Architects: Francis Mawson Rattenbury

British Columbia Legislature Buildings in Victoria, British Columbia (Photo Credit: Ryan Bushby)

British Columbia Legislature Buildings in Victoria, British Columbia (Photo Credit: Ryan Bushby)

One of British Columbia’s most celebrated institutional architects was a man who inspired many things away from architecture including high end London plays starring famous actors, a legal case taught to many young lawyers to this day, and a number of novels. His life was filled with almost every kind of sensationalism that could inspire Hollywood filmmakers for years to come: lying about his credentials, illicit sexual affairs, dizzying fame and recognition, alcoholism, the fall from Grace and, finally, murder. Who was this man? Francis Mawson Rattenbury created such architectural wonders in British Columbia as the Empress Hotel and the BC Legislature Building in Victoria; the Court Houses in Vancouver, Nanaimo and Nelson plus numerous other buildings in the province. Before Arthur Erickson, another famed BC architect who began his illustrious career in the 1960s, it was Rattenbury who set the bar of excellence for institutional building design in British Columbia. However, for some, his enduring legacy is undoubtedly his complicated and very tragic personal life.

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Relaunch of History to the People

Hello Everyone,

After a rather lengthy absence, we are proud to be back to bring you more stories and features about Canadian heritage and history! We will re-post some of your favourites from the old site including the series Great Canadian Architects, Traditional Family Recipes and Canadian Castles. We are also working on some new ideas such as features on Canadian military history, Canadian cultural heritage landscapes from a foreign perspective, technological history and built heritage from across Canada.

A special thanks goes out to Pierre who lent his expertise and assistance as well as to Craig at Netfirms in helping to get this site back up and running again!

If you have any story ideas you’d like to see featured here, please leave a comment or send us an email.

It is great to be back and we look forward to posting new stories in the months to come as well as hearing your comments!

Cheers,
Laura
Administrator, History to the People

Burrard Dry Docks: The Ships That Clarence Built

Last of the Victory ships being built in early 1945. The view is looking south across Burrand Inlet to downtown Vancouver (Photo Credit: NVMA 27-2289)

Last of the Victory ships being built in early 1945. The view is looking south across Burrand Inlet to downtown Vancouver (Photo Credit: NVMA 27-2289)

Much has been made in recent years about the war effort on the home front in Canada from 1939 to 1945. Stories are now emerging about war bond fundraising efforts on the Prairies, Ontario hospitals training new nurses to specifically serve overseas and a number of “Rosie the Riveter” type recollections in the ammunitions factories all across Canada. With the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Navy having passed in 2010, more home front stories are now emerging to get the public attention they so richly deserve. One example of the home front effort is the stories of Canadian men and women worked side by side in the east and west coast shipyards during the war years to build naval destroyers, corvettes, and supply ships. One such place that churned out a large number of those supply ships was the Burrard Dry Dock in North Vancouver, British Columbia.

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