Sandra Hudson (left) and Julia MacDougall flank Craigdarroch Castle executive director John Hughes in front of the new visitor’s centre and offices and gift shop facility next to the castle. As of this week, visitors will begin their tour in the new building, then make their way across the driveway and into the castle.  Don Descoteau/Victoria News
Bad Video Embed Code

Sandra Hudson (left) and Julia MacDougall flank Craigdarroch Castle executive director John Hughes in front of the new visitor’s centre and offices and gift shop facility next to the castle. As of this week, visitors will begin their tour in the new building, then make their way across the driveway and into the castle. Don Descoteau/Victoria News

NEW ERA BEGINS: Victoria’s Craigdarroch Castle expands its operation

Customer service and experience enhanced with new visitor’s centre, temporary gallery

Craigdarroch Castle has had many faces through its nearly 130 years of existence.

Completed in 1890 as a Victoria residence for the Robert Dunsmuir family – the coal and shipping magnate died in 1889 – the castle has been home to various organizations since it was last a private residence in 1917.

It was a First World War military hospital, the home of Victoria College, the Victoria School Board and the Victoria Conservatory of Music. Since 1980, the Craigdarroch Castle Society has operated the building solely as a museum.

This week the castle enters its next era, with the unveiling of its new $2.5-million visitors centre, a 7,000-square-foot space next door. The centre combines a beautifully renovated 1913 home with new construction containing an accessible ticketing area at ground level, and a museum quality climate-controlled basement room to store artifacts and engage in other preservation work.

“I’m excited about the different stories we are going to be able to tell in these vacated rooms in the castle,” says curator Bruce Davies.

His new office is in the brightest room in the renovated building, and the move from the castle – one of a number of functions removed from the historic building – left him with a command view of his workplace of more than 40 years.

The Dunsmuir era, 1890 to roughly 1910, currently makes up about 50 per cent of the displays in the castle, with the remainder dedicated to displays illustrating the castle’s non-residential past.

“Now we will be able to tell these stories and focus on improving the museum collection,” Davies says, noting that many more Dunsmuir-related items are out there.

In the castle, the former kitchen that housed the gift shop for many years will be returned to that function in the form of an exhibit. A second-floor bedroom, originally used for Dunsmuir guests, will become the most elegant in the house, Davies says, and be furnished with high-end period antiques.

The former registrar’s space will house a display on the military hospital years, which Davies calls the “most important outside of the Dunsmuir era.”

The reclamation of castle spaces even extends to the washroom facilities, which now exist in the visitor’s centre. A problematic women’s lavatory on the second floor, which leaked water into the drawing room gallery below, will also be redesigned as a period exhibit.

Castle executive director John Hughes is excited about the possibilities in the new space, especially in terms of visitor comfort.

“We had 160,000 visitors in 2016 and we’re six-per-cent higher this year,” he says. “We’re seeing some days over a thousand people a day, and they have to wait.”

The gift shop has doubled in size to 1,500 square feet and will have expanded retail opportunities – important for a non-profit society. The restored home also contains staff and volunteer offices, more convenient storage areas and a new food service area.

An accessible multipurpose room, originally the home’s library, will host community events and be used as a temporary gallery to display more of the castle’s collection. Hughes also foresees partnering with other local museums to share resources as a way to expand the historical exhibitions.

“Over the years even though we acquire a lot of Dunsmuir stuff and we put it out and it’s the ‘wow’ factor, it’s the pretty stuff, it’s the interesting history end of it, visually speaking we still have photographs of the college, the girls field hockey team, we have a sweater. None of that’s on display – it can come out now.”

In preparation for the expansion, the castle brought in two key managers, gift shop manager Catriona Wilson and operations and development manager Toby Stubbs. Wilson will be in charge of ramping up the facility’s retail opportunities, while Stubbs co-ordinates visitor service staff and volunteers.

Davies appreciates having the castle stand alone as it exhibits important parts of Victoria’s history.

“I especially like the fact that the office type functions, not just staff offices but also cash registers and commerce, is out of the castle so that it feels more like a home,” he says. “You’re stepping back in time as soon as you open that door, instead of looking at a cash register.”

For more about Craigdarroch Castle, visit thecastle.ca, call 250-592-5323 or drop by to have a look at 1050 Joan Cres.

Expensive project cost

largely covered

The Craigdarroch Castle Society saved up about $1 million toward its $2.5-million visitor centre expansion project, but two or three solid tourist seasons in row has left the group in even better shape to have a low mortgage, says Hughes.

About $1.7 million in cash was put toward the project, he says. The $250,000 Canada Cultural Spaces Fund grant the society received helped pay for the artifact storage and workshop in the basement, and making the centre accessible.

editor@vicnews.com

Craigdarroch CastleMuseum

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Craigdarroch Castle executive director John Hughes stands next to custom made artifact storage shelves in the basement of the new visitor centre next to the castle on Joan Crescent in Victoria. The room is climate controlled to better preserve historical artifacts. Don Descoteau/Victoria News

Craigdarroch Castle executive director John Hughes stands next to custom made artifact storage shelves in the basement of the new visitor centre next to the castle on Joan Crescent in Victoria. The room is climate controlled to better preserve historical artifacts. Don Descoteau/Victoria News

Craigdarroch Castle has more of its rooms available for historical displays with the new visitors centre open next door.                                Photo by Andrew Annuar/Courtesy Craigdarroch Castle

Craigdarroch Castle has more of its rooms available for historical displays with the new visitors centre open next door. Photo by Andrew Annuar/Courtesy Craigdarroch Castle

Just Posted

Steve Smith’s image of two sibling adolescent grizzly bears playfighting in the Chilko River in the B.C. Interior earned him best of show at the prestigious Lion’s Gate Celebration of Nature club competition for 2020-21. (Photo by Steve Smith)
Victoria Camera Club captures top spot in prestigious nature and wildlife competition

Saanich Peninsula photographers part of award-winning team

Downtown Victoria and the Inner Harbour are part of a corridor that also includes much of urban Saanich that is part of the Greater Victoria 2030 District, a sustainable buildings climate initiative announced recently. (Black Press Media file photo)
Ramping up energy efficiency in Greater Victoria buildings goal of new group

Greater Victoria 2030 District part of North American network of cities working to reduce emissions

Oak Bay High Grade 10 students Oliver Wakely and Alex Joiner with the new scoreboard to soon be installed on the grass turf. Fundraising from the Oak Bay Barbarians rugby alumni and Oak Bay Fire Fighters Charitable Foundation. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Oak Bay High alumni buy new scoreboard

Scoreboard to be installed on grass field

Victoria Hospice staff Brianne Ohl, left, Angela Chalmers, right, and Sandi Ogloff, at back, show off their buttons that show a picture of them smiling. Staff has worked hard to maintain the connections with patients despite the barriers of PPE and rigid COVID-19 protocols. (Victoria Hospice Photo)
Hospice provides compassion in a time of COVID

Victoria Hospice 40th anniversary on pause during pandemic

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo hospital

Two staff members and one patient have tested positive, all on the same floor

A long-term care worker receives the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic in Nanaimo earlier this month. (Island Health photo)
All Island seniors in long-term care will be vaccinated by the end of this weekend

Immunization of high-risk population will continue over the next two months

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

Most Read