Colonial History Vancouver Island
Maureen Duffus - Author and Historian

History Vancouver Island

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Agnes McKenzie's Craigflower Dream House

Craigflower Manor
The grand house built for the McKenzie family at Craigflower Farm was completed in 1856. It still stands on its original site near the shores of Portage Inlet at the eastern entrance to the town of View Royal.

On May 1, 1856, Agnes McKenzie finally moved into her new house. It was only a few yards from her first Craigflower house, little more than a shack, where she and her family lived in crowded discomfort for their first three years in the Colony of Vancouver Island.

Kenneth McKenzie was hired by the Hudson's Bay Company to manage one of their large agricultural enterprises around Fort Victoria. He and his family were led to expect living quarters suitable for a person in charge of a 900 acre establishment, but found only a solid plank floor where the house should have been. The timber foundation of Craigflower farm house was built by Hudson's Bay Company workmen in the early 1850s. more... The two-storey frame house was built on the older foundation by Kenneth McKenzie's Scottish carpenters between 1853 and 1856.

It was a grand house for its time, second only to the Douglas mansion on the shores of James Bay, torn down in 1906. Craigflower was spared the fate of this first Government House, surviving 150 years of various tenants and threats of demolition to become a National Historic Site.

Craigflower Manor parlour Craigflower Manor dining room

Click images for larger versions and more info

Craigflower Manor entrance hall Craigflower Manor bedroom

Kenneth McKenzie's house is thought to have been designed to resemble the Georgian style architecture of his family home in Scotland. Inside, the rooms are not large, but would have been considered grand compared to the modest cottages of most settlers in the 1850s. The Land Conservancy, which now manages the historic site, has furnished the house as Mrs. McKenzie might have liked in the 1860s. (Very few original McKenzie items are available, as the family removed all their belongings when they were forced to leave the farm in 1866.)

A careful restoration to its 1856 configuration was completed in the 1970s by the of the BC Government's Heritage Properties Branch, owners of the site. The Manor House, as it is now known, and the 1855 schoolhouse across the inlet, are now managed by The Land Conservancy, see the Craigflower National Historic Sites of Canada site.

Craigflower Schoolhouse
The schoolhouse was completed by Craigflower carpenters in 1855. The schoolroom was also used for meetings of the Craigflower Men's Mechanics Institute. This 1930s postcard shows the pre-restoration building shortly after former pupils of the school saved it from demolition.


For more detailed information about the McKenzie family and the community of Scottish settlers who came with them in 1853, see the excellent BC Heritage Properties/Canada's Digital Collections site Teaching, Learning and Farming at Craigflower Farm.

Also see the excerpt from Craigflower Country entitled Labour Strife at Craigflower Farm and the text based on a talk at the 150th Anniversary ceremony entitled The British Empire Connection.

Home | Books, Excerpts & Reviews | Find Books | About the Author | Talks & Articles
Vancouver Island History | Victoria Families | Women's History | Suggested Reading

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