Imagine for a moment if you can; you are 25 years old, have articled in the study of architecture for five years at your uncles firm in England, and you have just arrived in Victoria British Columbia. The date is May 1892 and there is design competition currently running for the brand new set of parliament Buildings. You enter the competition and in 1893 are chosen to design British Columbia’s new Parliament Buildings! A challenging task for even the most experienced of architects, but F.M. Rattenbury was confident in his youthful visions. He described his vision as “free classical style”, many describe it as an original version of the renaissance style. However you interpret Rattenbury’s vision, you have to respect the resulting house of parliament. At a final price tag of $923,882.30 construction exceeded it’s original budget of $600,000 and was completed in 1915.
The concept of the buildings really is quite amazing. It starts with the Legislative Hall dominating the ensemble. It is the perfect symbol of the paramount importance the Legislative Assembly has as the life blood of our government. This huge central block was designed to contain Legislative Hall and necessary administrative departments. Two flanking blocks located beyond two additional 40 foot colonnades and the distinctive T formation of the main structure allowed for the existing “Birdcages” to remain in use up until the completion of construction. The “Birdcages” were the original colonial administration buildings strung along the James Bay waterfront.
While many imported elements find their home in these magnificent buildings it is a wonder to know this newly developing British outpost supplied the greater portion of materials. From our native grown lumber, bricks, lime, granite, and roof slates,British Columbias’ resources were fully utilized. The details in the finishing work of this magnificent combination of buildings really must be seen to truly appreciate the craftsmanship of the tradesmen at that time. One cannot help but notice the abundant details that adorn this fascinating work of architecture. Imposing and yet comfortably pleasing in its stature, all visitors are impressed with the incredible amount of intricate detail. Marble mosaics & columns, wrought iron gates, parquetry of oak & walnut, and expansive stained glass, all details are incredible works of art in their own right.
Your visit to Victoria BC will not be complete without a tour of these magnificent buildings. Start with a stroll around the 12 ¼ acre grounds;
- note the giant redwood (to the right of the main path) planted in 1863
- 27ft high Obelisk, made of BC marble, erected in 1879
- ornate fountain just below the terrace
- statue of Queen Victoria
- World War 1 memorial, 1925
- sunken rose garden behind the west wing
- Centennial Fountain, 1958, celebrates the 1862 union of all 4 territories into the Crown Colony of British Columbia
- the red brick building is Drill Hall of 1892
- west side is confederation square and fountain, 1967
- back toward the Inner Harbour note the Canadian Pacific Steamship Terminal, 1923
Now if you are impressed with the your exterior tour do not miss the fully guided tour inside. Free guided tours of the British Columbia’s Parliament Buildings are offered throughout the year. The parliament buildings are located on the Inner Harbour of downtown Victoria. From your new home at Ashcroft House Victoria Inn downtown you have an easy historic 12 minute stroll down Government Street. Don’t miss taking in the history, legend, and art of our beloved local artist Emily Carr as you pass her heritage birthplace home along the way.