Completed in 1890, Craigdarroch Castle is a National Historic Site.
“It’s a museum, it’s a place of entertainment, it’s just ‘Victoria’s castle'” says John Hughes, executive director of the Craigdarroch Castle Society. “It was commissioned by the patriarch, Robert Dunsmuir. He died before the castle was completed, so it was his wife Joan who moved in here with three unmarried daughters and two grandchildren. Joan lived here about 18 years.”
“[The Castle] has not-for-profit, charitable status. We have three hundred members, and aside from the City of Victoria’s permissive property tax grant, we are self-funded. Aside from the jobs that we create, I think we have 16 permanent people, and another ten or twelve casual staff working here, we spend about $250 thousand dollars a year on capital projects” says Hughes.
One of those capital projects was the Visitors Centre, which includes the Castle gift shop. It was completed two years ago.
“It was created so that we could actually empty the operational noise out of the castle,” says Hughes,
Hughes also stresses that Craigdarroch couldn’t function without its volunteers.
“We have 60 active volunteers, and they’re working four-hour shifts seven days a week, 362 days a year. They’re the ones that help us keep our staffing costs down, and contribute the money that we do bring in toward the restoration and maintenance of the building. We could not do it without them.”
Kathy Harris has been volunteering at the Castle for nine years. “I love the Dunsmuir story, and I love the history of Victoria. I still find it really interesting, and I also volunteer at the Royal BC Museum.”
“It’s lots of fun, I love it!” says Hilary Allan, who began volunteering at the Castle nearly two years ago. “I love talking, and there’s just so many people you get to talk to every week, and they’re from all different parts of the world. And every week I learn something different about every room.”
Rooms that have now been fully decorated for the holiday season.
“We start in October with this decorating,” says Hughes, “and as of December 1st it’s ready to go. The house on its own is beautiful, and people love the quality of the restoration work, and the storytelling that we do here, and then Christmas itself just adds a little bit more with the music in the background and the extra decorations.”