Castles of Red Brick in Victoria B.C., Canada

Castles of Red Brick in Victoria B.C. Canada

Built on Red Brick 

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada- nicknamed "The Garden City" and "The Friendliest city in Canada", is comparable to any Old World City and is built on Red Brick like any Old World City. Everywhere in Victoria you will find Red Brick, in fact you can go visit the Underground in Victoria and see the foundation of Red Brick the city is built on. Some historians doubt their existence, but the photographic evidence of those who have been in the Underground proves otherwise. But Victoria B.C. has a deeper history than just it's Red Brick, the city is a cornerstone in the chronicle of British Columbia, and if we dig a little deeper below the foundation of red brick we might find a lost civilization.

ParksCanada PDF- Architectural Trends in Victoria 1850-1914 

Victoria also has some of the most haunted places in Canada.
Helmcken Alley
Ross Bay Cemetery



And some of the most iconic neighborhoods of Red Brick can be found in Victoria, designated as heritage sites.

Lower Yates St.
Downtown Victoria

Willies Bakery- Victoria's oldest Bakery

Fernwood: Victoria's oldest neighborhood  

'Junk Site'
Nootka Court

 Hidden within the cobblestones and bordering between Fisgard St. and Johnson St., you will find Fan-Tan alley- Canada's oldest Chinatown, and Dragon alley- Canada's narrowest street. They were originally Victoria's gambling district and full of opium dens. Fan-Tan alley was designated a heritage property in 2001.

Dragon Alley

Fan-Tan Alley

Chinese Quarter C.1886


History of Victoria 

The history of Victoria begins like any other place in Canada as we are told- "The land at the southern parts of Vancouver Island belonged to the Coast Salish people long before any European sailed along the coast."  

Coast Salish- wikipedia

 A Short History of the Coast Salish People

We are told in 1790 the Spanish sailed into the Esquimalt Harbour, where Fort Rodd Hill is today. We are never told the exact date when the fort was constructed in history, only that the British Royal Navy used it for defense of Esquimalt Harbour starting in the 1840's. Could Fort Rodd Hill be the remnants of a Star Fort? If your wondering why I think Fort Rodd Hill might be a Star Fort please see my article, The Lost Kingdom of Anian Regnum: The Great Northern Mystery of British Columbia

Fort Rodd Hill- goggle earth

       Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site

In the narrative of the history of Victoria it is written that James Douglas, (Aug15 1803-Aug2 1877, died age 73), a Canadian fur trader turned politician, and half black- a descendant of American slaves, was hired in 1841 to found a trading post for the Hudson's Bay Company, in anticipation of the Oregon Treaty which established the B.C.-Oregon border signed on June 15, 1846 in Washington D.C..

In 1843 the fort was built and became known as Fort Victoria in November of that year. Please see my article on The Creation of B.C.'s Parliament Buildings for more information. In 1849 the Vancouver Island Colony was established.
'The Bastion' reconstructed 1970. Originally construction in 1843 by James Douglas
James Douglas was the second Governor of the new found Vancouver Island Colony between 1851-64, Richard Blanshard 1817-1894 was the first. Victoria officially became a city when the Vancouver Island Colony joined the British Colombia Colony in 1866 and Victoria was named the capital. British Columbia joined the Canadian Confederation in 1871.

It's at this point in history we are told Victoria became the largest importers of opium, serving Hong Kong and the rest of North America until the opium trade was banned in 1908. UVic- Opium trade in Victoria
Despite being younger by over one hundred years when compared to other Canadian cities, and even Vancouver wasn't established until 1886, the city of  Victoria grew quickly built on the opium trade but they say it was built on the fur trade.

The population of Victoria in 1871 was 3270 people, which grew to 31,660 people in 1911. Victoria now has a population of 85,792 in the census of 2016.  

Sir James Douglas

History on B.C. - Oregon treaty

Fort Victoria is now the oldest historical site in the city of Victoria and was demolished in 1864, we are told because Victoria was growing fast. Fort Victoria- wikipedia
Mooring Pin, last object of Fort Victoria

Along what is now Fort St. and Wharf St. we have many historical Red Brick buildings. Fort St. Sightseeing. As well as an old retaining wall first constructed we are told in 1858 by the Hudson's Bay Company- 220 ft long, 22 ft high and a concrete foundation of 16 ft deep.

         Wharf St. circa 1866-1870
In 1862, Douglas passed a law prohibiting  wooden structures more the 6 meters high and 1879 the law was amended requiring all downtown buildings to be made of brick or stone. Unknown Victoria- Born of Fire 
Victoria B.C. is indeed an Old World City in every way, built on a foundation of Red Brick. If you could count all the Red Brick that went into the construction of all the Red Brick buildings in Victoria, I'm sure they would number into the tens of millions, perhaps even the hundreds of million if not more. In my article "Brick making or Brick recycling: Red Brick everywhere in B.C.", where I detail brick manufacturing in B.C. during the earliest days, I pose the question, 'Where did they get all the Red Brick?' So I pose the question here as well, 'Where did they get all the Red Brick?'
Yates St. 1860s


Castles of Red Brick 

Construction in the 1860's 

Built on the foundation of Red Brick and towering above the Red Brick neighbourhoods are Castles made of Red Brick. Immense architecture structures that are comparable to any castle from the Old World, all designated with the same types of names as any in the Old World, like academy, school, armoury, bank or government office. List of historic places in Victoria and they are literally everywhere in the city.

Craigdarroch Castle Constructed 1887-1890
Craigdarroch Castle- Fernwood







 St. Ann's Academy: The Sisters of St. Ann

The oldest Red Brick Castle in Victoria is St. Ann's Academy, located at 835 Humboldt Street. (St. Ann's Academy- wikipedia)-(St. Ann's home site- history page). 


Originally constructed as Victoria's first Roman Catholic Cathedral in 1858, by the Roman Catholic Congregation of Women- The Sisters of St. Ann from Lachine, Quebec, (Sisters of St. Ann- royal museum) and designed by Father Joseph Michaud, (Father Joseph Michaud- uvic page), as St. Ann's Cathedral when four Sisters of St. Ann and a lay woman came to Victoria in June of 1858 to establish a school for First Nations and Metis children on Vancouver Island (St Ann's Schoolhouse).
St. Ann's Academy Victoria C1890's

We are told in the narrative the Sisters first used an old log cabin for their school, built in 1840 by the Hudson's bay Company, until the Cathedral was moved and joined with the wooden school in 1871 and a convent was added in 1886.
Sisters of St. Ann- 1926 
St.Ann's Schoolhouse c.1890's
St. Ann's Academy National Historic Site of Canada
In 1973, the Sister's of St. Ann closed the school, selling the buildings and property to the B.C. provincial government. The building had a complete renovation and renamed 'St. Ann's Academy Historical Site of Canada' in 1989.

After the four sisters came to Victoria in 1858, the Sister's of St. Ann went on to establish many Red Brick castles of what we call in Canada 'The Indian Residential Schools'. Between 1874 and 1977 the Sisters of St. Ann operated more than 130 schools all across Canada. 28 are in B.C. and they all have a bad history- most being called haunted. As the Sister's of St. Ann gathered the children of the First Nations in Canada they essentially destroyed 3 generations, their culture and I think their history. But that's for a different post and a different time.

Kamloops Indian Residential School opened in 1893


Cary Castle  

The next grand structure on my chronological list of important iconic Red Brick Castles in Victoria is Cary Castle, which became the deciding factor why they decided on Victoria to be the capital of B.C.. 

We are told that in 1859 Victoria became inundated with 1000's of outsiders, mostly American, because of the Fraser River Gold Rush. Like the Explorers of old searching for the Strait of Anian, they came searching for the gold of 'The Lost kingdom of Anian Regnum'.
Mr. & Mrs. George Hunter Cary
Governor James Douglas appealed to London for well-educated and able men to help administer The Vancouver Island Colony and London sent George Hunter Cary. 
In 1859, with his finances in ruins and unpaid property taxes in England, Cary came to Victoria at the age of 27, with his young wife Ellen Martin. Douglas appointed him Acting Attorney General of Vancouver Island Colony shortly after his arrival.
Within a year Cary built himself a castle overlooking the Juan de Fuca Strait in 1860 and soon became Chief Justice for the Vancouver Island Colony in 1864. 
By 1865 Cary's political career came to an end under suspicion of corruption, and with his finances in ruins again was starting to go mad. Dr. John Helmcken said, "To encounter Cary was to meet a man noted for emotional instability, intemperate language, irrational behavior and unscrupulous dealings."
Cary died at the age of 33 in 1866 back in London, and became a foot note in the history of B.C. without a Wikipedia page.
The British Crown bought Cary Castle in 1865 as a seat for the new Governor of Vancouver Island, Sir Arthur Kennedy, who had been governor of Sierra Leone, Western Australia, Queensland and Hong Kong.  
The Crown abandoned The Government House in New Westminster when The Vancouver Island Colony and The British Columbia Colony merged in 1866 in favour of Cary Castle, and it became the official residence of the new united colony's Governor. Since 1871, when B.C. joined Canada, the castle has been the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia and where the English Monarchy stay if they visit B.C..
Old Gov. House- NewWest
In May 1899 Cary Castle suffered a catastrophic fire but Sir Francis Rattenbury was hired to reconstruct it. Please see my article, The Creation of B.C. Parliament Buildings
more information on Rattenbury.
Cary Castle is now the home of the "honourable" Janet Austin, the 30th Lieuenant Governor of B.C., at 1401 Rockland Ave.




Temple Emanu-El 

Also in 1858 the first Jewish settlers came to Victoria to establish the first Jewish Community, and in 1859 The Victoria Hebrew Benevolent Society was created- the first of its kind in Canada, in order to raise funds for a new building. Within 5 years, and at a cost of $9000, the Jewish Community of Victoria constructed the Temple Emanu-El in 1863.

Courtesy- Jewish Museum and Archives of B.C.
Temple Emanu-El is located at 1461 Blanshard St. and was designated a heritage site in 1979 as Canada's oldest surviving synagogue.


Construction in the 1870's
The building of Red Brick structures increased during the 1870's and many iconic Red Brick buildings were constructed, we are told, during this time of Victoria's growth under the Opium trade.

St. Joseph's Hospital  

Across the street from St. Ann's Academy National Historic Site of Canada, at 840 Humboldt Street, we have another iconic Red Brick Castle, the Neoclassical Edwardian style architecture of St. Joseph's Hospital.

Constructed in 1876 within a year under the leadership of Mother Mary Providence, one of the original 4 Sister's of St. Ann- who was only 22 when she arrived in Victoria in 1859, and Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken, in association with the Sister's of St. Ann, which reinforced the significance of the Order's influence in the growth of Victoria.
St.Ann's Academy and St. Joseph's Hospital C.1900's

We are told when St. Joseph's Hospital first opened in 1876, the cost was $13,900 to build and had 35 patient beds. The building was supposed to have received several upgrades. In 1888, 48 beds were added, then in 1897 another 67 were added for a total 150 beds. 

Window in St. Joseph's
St. Ann's Academy Chapel- photo Mike Gabelman pinterest


In 1908, a 4-storey Red Brick building was added with a chapel that's regarded as a small architectural gem today, and is (we are told) the remaining structure still standing today.
St. Joseph's reconstruction 1908
St. Joseph's Chapel

In 1949 there was a major renovation done on St. Joseph's where they demolished the original 1876 building- although if you compare pictures it looks like the 1876 building is the one still here. The Sister's transfered ownership of the building to the B.C. government in 1960, to become Victoria General Hospital. Then in the mid-1980's it became Fairview health center.
In 1985 the Halmark Society of Victoria protested the removal of stain glass windows from St. Joseph's but it wasn't until 2000 St. Joseph's was designated a heritage site. In 2001 it was sold to a developer who was planning on turning it into a hotel, but instead it became St. Joseph Apartment Complex. If your lucky you can rent an apartment in downtown Victoria, but there's no pets allowed.

We are told Victoria was growing fast through the 1870's and many Red Brick buildings and Red Brick neighborhoods were constructed. There are 2 Castles of Red Brick that are worth honourable mention during this time, they are just as beautiful as St. Ann's Academy and St. Joseph's and constructed to last forever as Cary Castle once was, but there isn't much recorded in history about them.

The Malahat/Old Custom House, looking out onto the harbour, is a surviving example of federal buildings that Canada built following Confederation and served as the center for the cities imports and exports- keeping track of all that opium. The Second Empire style building was constructed in 1875 by the Chief Architect of the Department of Public Works, Thomas Seaton Scott, and named a heritage site in 1987. Located at 955 Wharf St., The Old Custom House is one of a couple of very old Red Brick buildings now under renovation to become high-end condos, selling at $2.6 million each.  The Customs House
The Grand Lodge of B.C. and Yukon
Victoria-Columbia Lodge No.1, first established as Victoria Lodge No.1085 of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, has been operating as an Emulation-Work Lodge in Victoria since 1859, and was first chartered by the United Grand Lodge of England by the Earl of Zetland, Grand Master of England. It was the first Masonic Lodge to be constituted in England's Western Domains. 

We are told the Lodge met in rented spaces until they built the Masonic Temple of Victoria in 1878.
The Second Empire construction of the Masonic  Temple of Victoria- Columbia Lodge No. 1, designed by John Teague,  is now situated at the northwest corner of Fisgard St. and Dougals St. and has been the continuous home of the Lodge since its founding.
Masonic Temple Victoria c.1880's



Construction in the 1880's

The 1880's was a time of expansion for Victoria, as the iconic neighbourhoods of Wharf St. and Fort St., Oak Bay and Beacon Hill, Chinatown, and Government St. grew up and we have Red Brick buildings along the streets of mud. Downtown Victoria became full of Red Brick in places like Bastion Square, Uplands, Blanchard St., Rockland Ave., Yates St. and Douglas St..
Yates & Douglas 1895

Wharf St. 1870's


Many Red Brick commersial buildings were constructed during the 1880's as well.
Roller Flour & Rice Mill c.1885
Turner Beeton Building c.1880's

The White Horse Hotel c.1875

The Clarence Hotel c.1888

The Bank of B.C.


The Bank of British Columbia was built in 1885 and designated a heritage site in 1975. It remained an operating bank until 1988. Now it's a pub called the 'Bard and Banker'.

Bank of B.C.- wikipedia 

The Bard and Banker- home site 


The pic on the left is from 1891.
The pic on the right is from 1887.

In 1889 the B.C. Provincial Law Courts Building was constructed at the corner of 28 Bation Square and Langley St. in the Old Town District in Victoria and is valued as the oldest post-confederation courthouse in the province, and designated a heritage site in 1980.

The Victoria Courthouse is one of the most grandest designs for the more than 30 courthouses built around B.C. in the 19th century. It was the home of the B.C. Maritime Museum for 50 years until they moved out in 2015. The old Red Brick building went through a $12 million renovation and is now the heart of Victoria's old town.

I include a side story of Matthew Begbie (1819- 1894), a British lawyer, politician, judge and Chief Justice of the British Columbia Colony from 1858 until his death in 1894. He later became know as the Hanging Judge.
The story goes that the B.C. colony stole land from the Tsilhqot'in 1st Nations of the  Cariboo- Chilcotin region of B.C. to build a road to Barkerville. The Tsilhqot'in protested and Begbie hung most of the tribe including several chiefs.


Construction in the 1890's 

The building of the 1890's was in full swing and we have the most beautiful Red Brick architecture being constructed of the most iconic Red Brick buildings in Canada at this time. Even though we are told in the 1890's there were economic recessions, a bank panic in the U.S., and real estate speculations collapsing- not to mention a smallpox epidemic broke out in June of 1892 that closed the harbour under quarantine regulations. Victoria's economy remained strong as they kept building Red Brick Castles.
I list the Parliament Buildings of British Columbia first because they are the most important architecture to be created in B.C., not to mention the most beautiful, and I think they stands today as a testimony to 'The Lost Kingdom of Anian Regnum.' They were constructed within 4 years from 1893 - 1897 by Sir Frances Rattenbury.


B.C.'s Crystal Palace

Entrance to Willow Park 1891
B.C.'s Crystal Palace, I think, is the most important Red Brick Castle ever constructed in B.C., I haven't found any better.
B.C. held Agricultural Exhibitions at Willow Park in Oak Bay from 1861 until 1941, and in 1891 'The B.C. Agricultural Association Exhibition Building at the Willows' was constructed within 65 days we are told, with the large dome on top taking only 10 days to complete. But we are told, "that's the way they built them back then." It was such a spectacular building it received the  nicknamed 'B.C.'s Crystal Palace' after the Crystal Palace in London.

B.C. Crystal Palace 1891

Interior of B.C.'s Crystal Palace
The building was 26,000 square feet of interior space, with another 10,000 square feet in the galleries. 52 large multi-paned, plate glass windows glistened from the ground up to the 56 foot high roof dome, and was finished in huge arches. Above it all was a tall octagonal, windowed tower 28 feet in diameter, crowned with a great dome, and a colonnaded cupola at the very top. A flag pole rose to 170 feet at the pinnacle. At both ends of the building were two enormous porches, with flights of stairs rising to the grand entry doors, and balconies overlooked the entries. It was said, "a magical air enveloped the building when it first opened."
In 1907 'B.C.'s Crystal Palace', 'The B.C. Agricultural Association Exhibition Building at the Willows' in Oak Bay burnt to the ground and nothing remains of it today.
It was absolutely rescued from the oblivion of history by historian and heritage consultant Stuart Stark in his book, 'Lost Victoria: The B.C. Agricultural Association Exhibition Building at the Willows." 
I completely respect Stuart Stark and the extensive research he has done. I can only hope my little blog can help as this most beautiful architectural Red Brick Castle is slowly resurrected. I think it is of the utmost importance that B.C.'s Crystal Palace comes back to our collective memory and not be forgotten, so maybe we will see 'The Lost Kingdom of Anian' a little more sharper.


Victoria City Hall 1892
We are told Victoria built their city hall in stages between 1878 to 1891. It is the oldest surviving municipal hall in western Canada and among the oldest in all of western North America.
The Second Empire style building was designed by Architect John Teague who won a competition in 1875, and you can see Teague's work in a few buildings in Victoria like the Masonic Temple, or so we are told. 
The masonry walls, metal work, carpentry and finishes that characterizes Victoria's City Hall stands for the exceptional building techniques of  Victorian era construction. The 4-sided clock in the central tower is a landmark in downtown Victoria, the original bell still chimes every 30 minutes.

In the 1960's, as Victoria continued to grow and evolve, the city hall received a new annex as it became the central part of the new Centennial Square project, which was Victoria's first major urbane redevelopment project. Located on the corner of Douglas St. and Pandora Ave it is still the home of the City Council. 
It was nearly destroyed during the renovations of 1960 but was saved. Now it is surrounded by both modern and historic structures. Victoria's City Hall was recognized  a National Historic Site in 1977, and designated a Municipal Heritage Site in 1979.
Victoria's Conservatory of Music is my over all favourite wonderful Red Brick Castle in Victoria- and this being just an example of the grand churches in Victoria.
Located at 900 Johnson St., on the corner of Quadra St. and Pandora St., the Conservatory of Music is the only structure in Victoria designed in the Richardsonian Romanesque Style architecture and is one of the most significant and outstanding historical landmarks outside of Old Town Victoria.

Designed by architect Thomas Hooper in 1890, the building was originally the Metropolitan Methodist Church and intended to comply with the historic nonconformist view of the Methodist Church of the time.
The rustic appearance of the heavy stone facade, accentuated lead clad towers and turrets, recessed arched windows and doorways, distinguished this building from all other Red Brick buildings in the city at the time. It reflects the height of North American architect at the time of its construction- or so we are told.  
The interior of  the castle is one of its most remarkable features. The  cast iron elements and woodworking is an example of the superior caftmanship of the time, with the amphitheature style, horseshoe shaped gallery santuary, which followed the standard Methodist plan of the time.
The stained glass is some of the most beautiful in Canada, if not the world. They have been painstakingly and exquisitely documented in photos by the Institute for Stained Glass in Canada.
The Institute for Stained Glass in Canada, founded by Patrick Burns, is a not-for-profit educational society based in Vancouver and their goal is to raise awareness of Canada's extensive range of stained glass. They have extensively photographed hundreds of stained glass windows across Canada, of which they estimate the number being well over 100,000 in public buildings and many more in private homes. 

Provincial Royal Jubilee Hospital

The Provincial Royal Jubilee Hopital Complex was constructed in three stages. The Jubilee Hospital in 1891, Pemberton Memorial Operating Room in 1896, and Begbie Hall in 1926.
John Teague designed Jubilee Hopital to be situated on 20 acres of what would have been isolated land in 1889. A year later the first building, The Provincial Royal Jubilee Hospital- named for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee year in 1887, was completed over budget at a cost of $50,558, and the hospital could accommodate up to 100 patients. It remained Victoria's main hospital until 1983.

Gate to Royal Jubilee Hopital- 1892
We are told the Cornerstone was laid on April 1889, with a time capsule beneath it. It was supposed to have contained the plans for the building and some silver coins. There's no mention of a time capsule when the building was demolished in 1962.
Queen Victoria's 3rd son- Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, who served as Canada's Governer General between 1911 and 1916, was said to have officiated the opening ceremonies.  Prince Arthur- wikipedia
Royal Jubilee Hospital 1900?

The Pemberton Operating Room completed construction in 1896- and was supposed to be used daily until 1925, establishing Royal Jubilee Hospital as the leading surgical hospital in B.C. at the time. Pemberton Operating Room was designated a National Historic Site in 2005. We are told, "it is a rare surviving example of a late 19th century surgical facility from the period when hospitals were transitioning from primarily charitable to scientific institutions."

The Royal Jubilee Hospital Complex has suffered many renovations through the years, where most of the original structures have been demonlished, except in 2012 when it recieved a complete restoration.
Quote from Toad Hollow Photography, "While it is hard to let go of the beauty captured all those years ago of the delicate design of the brick, the details in the concrete, and the elegate architecture, time marches on and we come to realize that it is just another facade in the history of many, holding new windows that will continue thier vigilant watch on the community below, ready to offer comfort, care and healing whenever called upon."

Other Architecture of the 1890's

In 1891 the Victoria Brewery and the Phoenix Brewery merged to form the Victoria -Phoenix Brewing Company, and in 1892 built this "handsome building" on Government St. for a cost of $120,000. It was said to be one of the most modern beweries on the Pacific Coast at the time, even manufacturing coloured bottles. This Red Brick Castle was torn down in 1982.
Dallas Hotel under construction 1891
The construction of another Red Brick Castle was rushed in 1891. The Dallas Hotel was built on Dallas road across from the harbour, and we are told the cornerstone was placed in April and within six months the hotel was filled with guest by September 1891.
In 1927 the Dallas Hotel was sold at a tax sale and demolished in 1928. The site now contains newly built brick buildings, 'The Breakwater Townhouse Complex', where nothing remains of the old Dallas Hotel. 
Temple Building photo 1911
The last Red Brick Castle on my list, we are told constructed in the 1890's is a survivor. The Temple Building, located at 519 Fort St. was designed and constructed by Samuel Maclure in 1893, and is considered one of the most achitectually significant buildings in Victoria.
'The historic landmark is distinctive for its brick walls, rusticated sandstone base, and rounded entry arch with relief ornaments of terra cotta.' 
Even though the Temple Building has never been designated a heritage site, it still stands strong on a solid foundation of red brick at 519- 525 Fort St., as a testimony to how these Red Brick Castles were constructed to last forever. 

  Construction in the 1900's

As Victoria grew into the 1900's the city became electrified and cars came onto the streets that used to be mud, now cobblestone, instead of horse and cart. Some of the largest Red Brick Castles were constructed at this time in history we are told. I will only detail one more Red Brick Castle that was constructed during this time, or else my little article will never be finished. I have only investigated a small number of Red Brick Castles in Victoria, and only touched on the Architects who built them. I didn't even go into the schools or churches that could all be classified as Red Brick Castles, because every time I would be doing research on one, another Red Brick Castle would come up, there were so many I continuously found myself looking at another Red Brick Castle with a fascinating history. A person could spend  a lifetime researching all the Red Brick Castles in Victoria B.C. and many books could be written on the subject.
Originally named the 'Empress Hotel', it is one of the oldest hotels in Victoria facing the city's inner harbour at 721 Government St, and is only a few blocks down from the B.C. Parliament Buildings.
It was one of 22 Red Brick Castle, grand royal hotels the Canadian Pacific Railroad constructed between 1878 and 1930, we are told. Canada's Grand Railway Hotels- wikipedia
Sir Fances Rattenbury was originally hired to design the castle, and he had elaborate plans fashioned after the Chateau Frontinac in Quebec city. We are told Rattenbury's plans featured a 7-story hotel with elements of French Renaissance Architecture, which featured an enormous entry hall, and a glass-roofed palm garden decorated in a Chinese motif. Construction started in 1904 but Rattenbury was released as the architect in 1907, and replaced by William Sutherland Maxwell who completed the construction in 1908. We are told the hotel had two expansion projects- the first between 1909 and 1914, the second in 1928.
The narrative of this grand castle starts more than 200 years ago, when we are told the land where the Empress Hotel now resides was once called 'Whosaycum' meaning: clay or muddy place by the Lekwungen people  of the Songhees Nation, who still call this area their traditional tribal lands. Clams and crabs thrived in the nutrient rich waters that once flowed from a creek that is now Cook St.. It is my assumption James Douglas took the land for the Hudson's Bay Company.

We are told in 1875 William J. Pendray established the Pendray Soap Works on the mudflats along Humboldt St.. Soon James bay became a cesspool of waste products from the factory, that gave off a horrendous odour and sickened the local residents. In 1899 Pendray added a paint factory, which I'm sure made the problem worse.  Victoria Harbour History- WJ Pendray

Two Victoria business men came up with the idea of constructing a grand hotel- George Henry Bernard, born in Victoria, he was mayor from 1904-1905. And James William Troup, who was an administrator for the CPR.
 Sir Thomas Shaughessy, president of the CPR, came to Victoria in 1902 and made his proposal, "The city was to supply the site, exempt the CPR from all taxes and supply free water for 20 years. The CPR would then build  a hotel, and promised it wouldn't cost more than $300,000". On July 7, 1904 the city of Victoria voted 1205 to 46 in favour of granting tax exemption to the CPR. 
Work commenced within two weeks of the vote. First they dredged the harbour of muck and gravel. Then the 125 ft piling foundations were pounded into place, as close together as possible. We are told by Godfrey Holloway in his book, 'The Empress of Victoria' published in 1998, "They were labouring around the clock under what passed for floodlights. Bales and bales of straw were dumped into the morass to give some sort of footing for the workmen, while pile drivers thumped day and night until they hit bedrock." Empress of Victoria- amazon. 2,853 timber piles 50ft long, 500 piles 20 ft long for cofferdams, 60,500 board ft of planking and timber, and 9000 cu. yds of concrete were used in the construction of the foundation we are told. They built the walls at ground level 30 inches thick and criss-crossed great wooden beams under the roof that would have given the apex of the original building the appearance of a fortress. -James Bay Beacon.
The history of the Fairmont Hotels, began during the 1890's with James Graham Fair who bought land in San Francisco. We are told his nearly completed first hotel survived the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. In 1945 the Fairmont Hotel was bought by Benjamin Swig and the Swig Family turned it into a chain if hotels. In 1999 Canadian Pacific Hotels and Fairmont Hotels merged and they were all renamed Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. The citizens of Victoria viewed this as sacrilege we are told.
The Fairmont Empress Hotel is owned today by Legacy Hotels who bought the hotel for $120 million in 2000.

Over a $100 million have been spent on renovations over the years and it was nearly demolished in 1960's but was saved. During the renovations of 1989 it is reported the engineering staff of the hotel confirmed a tunnel ran from James Bay into the basement of the hotel. They said they didn't know what the purpose for it was, but surmised it was an old waste management system because it filled with sea water with the tides.
You can stay at the Fairmont Empress Hotel for no less than $300 a night. You can sit in one of the many Tea Rooms or Resturants and talk about the Spirits of the Past that may roam the endless hallways, or wonder if there's anymore secret passageways yet to be discovered.
The Fairmont Hotel is a glorious Red Brick Castle, with seemingly convincing construction photos. But how much can we really be sure of what they tell us about history is true? When Historians don't even know what the truth is themselves, or the purpose for these Red Brick Castles- as they were constructed in a matter of years, some in months. All history is conjecture, as we sift through the rubble of our past.



Its obvious Victoria B.C. cares for their history, as they struggle to preserve the old Red Brick Castles today. If the historians dug down a little deeper below the red brick foundation of the city, they may find Victoria's true history and perhaps a lost civilization. When I look at these glorious architectural wonders, I have to stand back in awe and wonder, as I continue my search for "The Lost Kingdom of Anian Regnum".  
The Sunshine City- travel video from 1936


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