This is where the wealthy upper-class pioneers of Victoria built their stately mansion and luxury properties built during the hay days of the mid 1800's Real Estate boom in Victoria, that continued into the early 1900's, the most famous of whom was the coal baron Robert Dunsmuir who built Craigdorroch Castle, below, It was customary for people to give names to estates in those days
Rockland Ave was where the who's who of Victoria resided back then due to it's relatively close proximity to the downtown core, which was very important back then before the advent of the automobile, when horses and horse drawn carriages were the norm for getting around town other than on foot. Areas like Oak Bay were then completely off-limits for residential development and were strictly used for farming, being comprised of mainly very large acreages. Rockland was also of a topography that sloped dramatically towards the water, offering good water views from most of the early homes built there, as well as an interesting streets scape and ambience.
A substantial increase in real estate values began in the mid 1880's in Victoria when the population was increasing rapidly and streetcars were introduced. This was a period of booming construction when many of the fine homes went up on Rockland Avenue.
Robert Irving, whose "Gisburn" residence on Rockland Avenue was a showplace of the time; Julius Brethour, a powerful North Saanich farmer-politician and his brother Henry.
Built around this time were the dwellings of Judge Harold Robertson at the northwest corner of Rockland Avenue and St. Charles Street, J. Wilson at 811 St. Charles Street, and of Bert Todd almost next door (No. 841).
Todd sold his dwelling to the Dunsmuirs who changed the name to "Westover," a small town in northwest Virginia for which Mrs. J. Dunsmuir had great affection. The stables of this residence in Shasta Place, now converted to a dwelling, still bear the name "Westover."* At No. 1005 St. Charles Street is the former home of Simon Leiser, wholesale grocer, while No. 628 of the same street was built by James Ogden Grahame, son of the James Allan Grahame who married Mary Work. The home at 582 was built by architect * The present No. 841 is the spot where stood the entrance gates leading to the large house "Westover" built by Bert Todd above what is now Shasta Place.
Thomas Galpin had his firm managed by P. R. Brown, who later founded P.R. Brown & Sons, Ltd, probably the oldest Real Estate company in Victoria. Other associates of Galpin were Arthur Wolfenden and Cuyler A. Holland, whose home on Rockland Avenue is mentioned above, B.C. Land & Investment was Victoria's principal marketer of lands during the 1900-14 boom.
At one time it owned or controlled half of the land in the Victoria area. This land included the McTavish estate comprising most of James Bay, the Douglas estate which included most of Fairfield (500 acres from Heywood Avenue to Ross Bay Cemetery and from Rockland to Dallas Road, including the 33 acres of Government House grounds for which the Province paid a rental of $40.50 per annum).
Rockland Ave, was the street of famous men and famous homes at that time.
1300 Former site of "Gisburn," built in 1880's and owned successively by Robert Irving, J.B. Hobson, retired financier, and Jack Rithet.
1322 Caroline Macklem home. Built in 1894 for Hewitt Bostock who started the Province newspaper in downtown Victoria. This later became the Vancouver Daily Province. Bostock became a senator and the home was afterwards occupied by J. D. Prentice, rancher.
1462 "Duvals," now Mary Manor apartment house 1560 Built by Duncan Ross, prominent Liberal, etc.
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