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.
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.