By Stacy Wyatt
All across the country, our rich and colorful history can be found inside the great halls and gardens of our notable castles, forts and mansions. Built hundreds of years ago, these fairy tale like destinations tell the stories of intrigue , war, passions, scandal, love and loss. Our castles are majestic and filled with mystery and magic. Best of all, you can bring some of that enchantment and beauty to your events by renting them to become the backdrop for your special celebrations.
Victoria, British Columbia
Hatley Park National Historic Site, home of Royal Roads University is situated a short 20 minutes from downtown Victoria, British Columbia. The iconic Hatley Castle is the centerpiece of the estate overlooking the breathtaking Pacific Ocean. The 565-acres is surrounded by old growth forest and pristine gardens making this one of the most unique venues in western Canada. A perfect setting for special events, banquets, and conferences.
The Castle was completed in 1908. James Dunsmuir commissioned Samuel Maclure, a Victorian architect, to design the Castle, and Messrs. Brett and Hall, landscape artists of Boston, Massachusetts, to plan the gardens and surroundings. Its impressive exterior is matched only by the lavishness of the interior appointments; oak and rosewood paneled rooms, baronial fireplace, teak floors, and specially made lighting fixtures. The wall surrounding the estate, built of local stone, cost over $75,000; the Conservatory, costing a like amount, was at one time filled with white orchids imported from India and a large banana tree grew in the center under the dome. The rooms of the house were filled with flowers from the Conservatory throughout the year. Ten kilometers of road interlaced the estate, and a hundred men were employed in the gardens.
The Dunsmuirs moved into the castle in 1908. James passed in 1920, at the age of 69. His wife, formerly Laura Surles of North Carolina, lived on at Hatley Park with her daughter Eleanor until she died in August, 1937. Eleanor died six months later.
In November 1940, it was purchased by the Dominion Government to begin its career as a Naval Training Establishment. The college closed in 1994, and in 1995 became part of Royal Roads University. The venue is a popular location for balls, weddings, galas and corporate functions.
Incidentally, Robert Dunsmuir, father of James Dunsmuir, built the Craigdarroch Castle in downtown Victoria.
Visit www.hatleycastle.com to learn more.
Victoria, British Columbia
Craigdarroch Castle is a definitively Victorian experience. It is a shining example of a “bonanza castle” — massive houses built for entrepreneurs who became wealthy during the industrial age. In this case, the industrialist was Robert Dunsmuir, a Scottish immigrant who made his fortune from Vancouver Island coal. This legendary Victorian mansion, built between 1887 and 1890 on a hill overlooking the City of Victoria, announced to the world that Robert Dunsmuir was the richest and most important man in Western Canada. He died in 1889, leaving his entire estate to his wife Joan, who lived in the Castle until her death in 1908.
oon after Joan Dunsmuir died at Craigdarroch, her daughters sold the Castle, the 28-acre estate was sub-divided and the Castle raffled. Eventually, the winners, having lived in the castle for a time, lost the Castle to the Bank of Montreal over unpaid debts. In 1919 Craigdarroch was extensively renovated by the federal Department of Soldiers Civil Re-establishment (DSCR) prior to opening as a military hospital in September, 1919 when it began its institutional life, which continued into the 1970’s before being taken over by The Craigdarroch Castle Historical Museum Society.
Today the beautiful castle with its 39 rooms and over 20,000 square feet of interior space, is a showpiece of the city. Hosting hundreds of events a year, Craigdarroch Castle was built for entertaining and is a unique choice for celebrations of all kinds.
The interior, due to its smallish rooms, is best suited to a stand-up cocktail-style reception or small event but the magical 70,000+ square foot lawns can accommodate the largest of events.
Visit www.thecastle.ca to learn more.
Dundurn Castle is a historic neoclassical mansion in Hamilton, Ontario. The 18,000-square-foot house took three years and $175,000 to build. The architect was Robert Charles Wetherell. Who completed it in 1835.
This 40-room Italianate-style villa was built on Burlington Heights; the former site of a fortified military encampment established by the British in 1813. Once home to Sir Allan Napier MacNab, railway magnate, lawyer and Premier of the United Canadas (1854-1856) and his family, Dundurn Castle tells the story of the family who lived above stairs and the servants who lived and worked below to support their affluent lifestyle.
Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall is the museum’s Patron and the great, great, great granddaughter of Sir Allan MacNab. It is currently owned by the City of Hamilton, which purchased it in 1900 for $50,000. The city has spent nearly $3 million renovating the site and the rooms have been restored to the year 1855 when Sir Allan was at the height of his career. Costumed interpreters guide visitors through the home, illustrating daily life from the 1850s.
Dundurn Castle’s associated buildings and structures are set in a picturesque, park-like estate of 13 hectares . The venue does rent out various parts of property and encourages event clients to engage the venues many period staff and offerings, into its events to provide a more authentic experience.
Visit www.hamilton.ca to learn more.
Casa Loma is Gothic Revival style castle and gardens in midtown Toronto. Casa Loma was built for financier Sir Henry Mill Pellatt in 1914. The architect was E. J. Lennox. Casa Loma took three years and $3.5 million to build and Sir Henry filled the magnificent castle with artwork from around the world. In its glory, Casa Loma stood as a monument to its creator – it surpassed any private home in North America. With soaring battlements and secret passageways, it paid homage to the castles and knights of days gone by. In the height of their years, Sir Henry and Lady Pellatt hosted grand social events and were deeply devoted to their philanthropic projects. In 1924 the effect of World War I and the changing landscape of the Canadian economy forced the Pellatts were to sell their possessions, abandon their beloved castle and move to their farm in King township. Lady Pellatt passed away later that year at the age of sixty-seven and Sir Henry died on March 8, 1939. Thousands lined Toronto streets to witness his funeral procession.
From 1925-36 the venue changed hands a few times, taking on various faces, from a failed luxury hotel, to being used at some point as a popular night spot. In 1933, the city of Toronto took ownership of the property for $27,303.45 The Kiwanis Club of West Toronto began operating Casa Loma as a tourist attraction in 1937 until just a few years ago.In January 2014, the Liberty Entertainment Group led by Nick Di Donato entered into a
In January 2014, the Liberty Entertainment Group led by Nick Di Donato entered into a long term lease with the City of Toronto. Today, Casa Loma is one of Toronto’s top tourist attractions and premiere hospitality venues.
The elegance and breathtaking detail of Casa Loma can be seen from it’s majestic Great Hall to the magnificence of the outdoor terrace which boasts a powerful view of the five-acre estate gardens below and the city skyline beyond. Hosting over 250 private events a year, Casa Loma is a true oasis within the bustling city.
Visit www.casaloma.ca to learn more.
Built in 1705 as the residence of then-governor of Montréal, Claude de Ramezay, the Château was the first building proclaimed as a historical monument in Quebec and is the province’s oldest private history museum. Over the years, the Château changed owners and functions several times, with Ramezay’s descendants selling the manor to the fur-trading Compagnie des Indes. From 1775, it became the Canadian headquarters for the Continental Army when it seized Montréal. Benjamin Franklin stayed there overnight in 1776, while trying to raise troops to fight for the Americans in the American Revolutionary War.
After the conquest until 1849 the house was again used as a governor’s residence, this time by the British governors. For official purposes it was known as Government House and was the governor’s official Montréal residence which complemented his other residence in Quebec City. Ramezay salon. In 1878, the building opened its doors to host Université de Montréal’s first Faculty of Medicine.
The building was bought by the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Montréal and converted into an historical museum and portrait gallery in 1894. Sir Andrew Taylor designed alterations to the Chateau in 1895.
From 1997 to 2002, the Château Ramezay underwent indoor and outdoor restorations, including the creation of the Governor’s Garden, inaugurated in 2000. In 2003, the Château Ramezay Museum earned the National Award of Excellence from the Landscape Architects of Canada. It has greeted more than a million visitors. The Château Ramezay offers a unique and enchanting setting for events and weddings in the heart of Old Montreal.
Visit www.chateauramezay.qc.ca to learn more.