Fonds 2011.025 - James Dunsmuir family fonds

postcard Trees, Hatley Park Pavilions, Italian Garden Hatley Castle, northwest facade Hatley Castle from lagoon First Nation structure, Hatley Park Rose Garden, Hatley Park Orchard wall and tennis court, Hatley Park Neptune fountain, Hatley Park Trees, Hatley Park Italian garden, Hatley Park Conservatory, Hatley Park Brick path, Italian Garden, Hatley Park Another view of the Tea Pavilion, Hatley Park The Conservatory, Hatley Park Fountain, lower terrace, Hatley Castle Road through the woods, Hatley Park Flower garden, Hatley Park Waterfall, Hatley Park Souvenir photo, Japanese garden, Hatley Park Pathway, Hatley Park View of ocean, Hatley Park Border in bloom, Hatley Park Arbour, Italian Garden, Hatley Park Japanese garden from Hatley Castle roof
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Title and statement of responsibility area

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James Dunsmuir family fonds

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  • Source of title proper: Title based on the contents of the collection

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Reference code

CA RRU 2011.025

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  • 1907 - 1920 (Creation)
    Dunsmuir, James
  • 1907 - 1937 (Creation)
    Dunsmuir Family

Physical description area

Physical description

approximately 200 photographs
1665 digital copies of black and white photographs
30 copies of original architectural and landscape plans
1 audio recording
1 film copy
2 geneology databases

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Archival description area

Name of creator


Biographical history

James Dunsmuir, industrialist, politician, premier of British Columbia 1900-02 (b at Ft Vancouver, Wash 8 July 1851; d at Cowichan, BC 6 June 1920), son of Robert Dunsmuir. Main heir to his family's coal fortune and spokesman for capital over labour, Dunsmuir dominated BC's economy until 1900. From 1876 to 1910 he managed the family coal operations on Vancouver Island, increasing annual output tenfold by opening new fields and improving mining methods. He invested widely in transport, agriculture, manufacturing and other resource industries.

Dunsmuir withstood all attempts at unionizing his operations, becoming labour's chief target in western Canada. In 1905 he sold the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway to the CPR and in 1910 he sold his collieries to William Mackenzie and Donald Mannfor $10 million.
Dunsmuir was elected MPP for Yale in 1898; he was premier of BC from 1900 to 1902, leading a Conservative administration concerned chiefly with Asian immigration, railway construction and BC's position within Confederation. A less prestigious figure would have had problems redistributing the legislature to reflect the now dominant mainland, and a more partisan politician would have remained longer in office. Dunsmuir disliked politics and served more from a sense of public duty than a desire for power. He reluctantly agreed in 1906 to be the province's lieutenant-governor, but resigned in 1909, relieved to be free to enjoy his lands and yacht.

Among Dunsmuir's real estate possessions was Hatley Castle, which was built for him by Samuel MacLure and which today houses the administration offices of Royal Roads University.
(From The Canadian Encyclopedia)

James Dunsmuir died on June 6, 1920, at his hunting lodge along Cowichan River.

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Biographical history

James Dunsmuir and his wife Laura (nee Surles, 1858-1937) had 12 children:
Robert (Robin)1877-1929
Sarah Byrd (Byrdie)1878-1925
Joan 1880-1884
Elizabeth (Bessie) 1882-1962
Laura Mary (Maye) 1884-1959
Alexander Lee 1886-1887
Emily Elinor (Elk) 1887-1938
Joan Marion 1888-1952
Jessie Muriel (Moulie) 1890-1959
Kathleen (Kat) 1891-1941 (during a bomb raid in London)
James (Boy) 1894-1915 (during the torpedoing of the Lusitania)
Dola 1903-1966

Custodial history

Many of the miscellaneous items were collected during DND tenure (1940-1995) and transfered to Royal Roads University upon its opening in 1995.
McCann collection loaned by family member for copying
real-estate film loaned by family member for copying
databases loaned by family member for copying

Scope and content

Fonds consists of material from the time that James Dunsmuir and his family lived at Hatley Castle. There are approximately 200 photographs of J. Dunsmuir family, Castle, grounds and staff; 1665 black and white photographs copied from Dunsmuir family's own albums; 30 copies of original plans by Maclure (Castle) and Brett and Hall (gardens and grounds); audio recording (poor quality) of interview with Catterall, general contractor involved in construction of Castle; 1 amateur film made to promote Castle for sale in 1938; copy of 2 family geneology databases.

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

Much of the material has remained on site since its creation by the Dunsmuir family. The Government of Canada purchased Hatley Park and contents from the Dunsmuir family in 1939, for use as DND property. Many historical documents remained when DND moved out of the site in 1994. Royal Roads University took over guardianship of the material when the lease on the property began in 1995.


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Some privacy concerns regarding the family photographs and personal information contained in databases

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Permission will be granted to reproduce collections on a case-by-case basis for research and publication where appropriate

Finding aids

McCann collection has been digitized and is searchable
Shot list available for real-estate film List of plans available

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