The Uplands

The Uplands, Victoria's most Exclusive Neighbourhood.  

Uplands is an area of luxury homes on large properties ranging from a quarter of an acre to three acres and an average size of half an acre in size, featuring some of the finest Real Estate on Vancouver Island and containing only a handful condos and townhomes.  The subdivision was originally planned in the 1920's by the Olmstead brothers of Chicago. John Olmstead was a famous landscape architect who would spend days walking the expansive 450 acre Uplands Farm property to map out it's intricate road network.  Even then, it was said to the most beautiful property in Victoria, getting sun all day, studded with Oak trees throughout, and shielded from wind on all sides.  

Today, the Uplands is reckoned to be Greater Victoria's finest residential neighborhoods, but back in 1923 strangely enough it made heavy going and the developers owed Oak Bay Municipality $79,000 for taxes. When the municipality tried to foreclose it discovered that all the taxes were in default except those on lot 1. Lot 1 covered all roads within the Uplands estate. If the municipality had  foreclosed it would have had no readily available access to the property.  Unfortunately early records of its transactions and of land deals in Oak Bay generally were reduced to pulp when the basement of the old Municipal Hall, corner Hampshire and Oak Bay Avenue and now the location of the Bank of Nova Scotia was flooded in 1955.

Uplands BayUplands House

French capital presented by the Credit Foncier promoted the now beautiful Uplands development. Full page advertisements in that year were asking $2,500 to $5,000 a lot but there were no takers and for many years there was only one resident, Andrew Wright, in the Uplands. His home at 3175 Beach Drive is now that of Hubert Wallace. As if to confirm its glimmerings of the eternal, Oak Bay has The Uplands, a residential area so well conceived and resolutely maintained as to have approached, in the words of a university professor, a state of immortality. The 465-acre subdivision, formerly part of the Uplands farm of the Hudson's Bay Company, was developed by a daring consortium in pre-First World War boom days.  It's planning was based on the garden city concept then popular in England and the United States. The idea was to have a central axis - Midland Way- and, following the contours of the curving boulevards, spacious view lots on gently-sloping benches, and abundant green spaces. There were 523 lots in all. And wonder of wonders for its time and place, this subdivision had paved roadways, underground utilities, and a streetcar line to downtown Victoria.

Although not the first residence, the Andrew Wright mansion called Riffington, at 2991 Beach Drive, was built as the showplace. Wright, Scottish-born, had made money in real estate in Winnipeg, and was a director of the development firm, The Uplands Limited. He chose prime seafront acreage for Riffington. The construction materials - stone from Haddington Island off northern Vancouver Island, lumber, imported hardwoods -were barged to the site, and under the combined efforts of a small army of skilled tradesmen and laborers, the grand home rose in 1911.

It stayed in the family until 1946 when Wright's son, Andrew, now in a Victoria area nursing home, sold to shipbuilder Hubert Wallace. "The architect, I believe he was from Vancouver, must have been outstanding," Wallace says. A set of blueprint plans dated 1913, on file in the Oak Bay municipal hall, shows the architect as Philip A. Jullien, of Vancouver, of whom little is known. "Riffington was way ahead of its time," Wallace continues. He is standing by an oak table with a white azalea on it, in the center of Riffington's marvelous two-storey, octagonal entrance hall, rose-windowed at its dome and galleried at the upper level. The rooms radiate from this central focal point. Four bedrooms, each with a full bathroom and dressing room, occupy the entire upper floor.

These rooms as well as those on the main level – the living room and the dining room, both having wide sea views; a French drawing room and a billiard room, all superbly proportioned, look out onto acres of manicured grounds that include Victoria in its early years was a very scattered and largely pastoral settlement. The farms were very different from those in crowded Europe; they consisted of a comparatively small area of cultivated land and much waste land over which cattle roamed. Uplands Farm, for instance, which was started in 1851 in what is now part of Oak Bay Municipality, consisted of a few farm buildings while cattle grazed in an area bounded by Cedar Hill Cross Road in the north, Camas Lane in the southeast, above Allenby Street in the south, Richmond Road in the west and the shoreline in the east.

Luxury Homes of the Victoria Uplands for Sale on MLS

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