Rockland is a historic neighbourhood in Victoria, located on an escarpment overlooking Juan de Fuca Strait and the Olympic Mountains. The Rockland area was developed in the early 1880’s from a 500-acre Douglas Estate called “Fairfield Farm”.
The first Governor of the Colony of Vancouver Island, Richard Blanshard, received 1,000 acres of land known as the “Governor’s Reserve”, encompassing Rockland and Fairfield. Joseph Despard Pemberton, the first land surveyor in the Colony, purchased the portion of Rockland from Pemberton Road east, and Sir James Douglas, the Colony’s second Governor, purchased the portion west from Government House. The first subdivision plan for Rockland was registered in 1865. Lots were large, from five to seven acre estates.
Designed to be a prestigious neighbourhood, Rockland became known as Victoria’s “Nob Hill”. Wealthy entrepreneurs, bankers, and politicians commissioned architects to design mansions that would reflect their cultural values. One of the most popular architects was Samuel Maclure (1860-1929) who had many commissions in Rockland. His designs included Tudor revival styles with half timbering, chalet-style homes, and shingled Arts and Crafts design. Maclure’s contemporary, Francis M. Rattenbury (1867-1935), famous for designing the Parliament Buildings, also designed a few residences in Rockland. Many other well-known architects, including John Teague, Percy Leonard James, Thomas Hooper, William Ridgway Watson and Ralph Berill also designed homes in Rockland.
In the 1940s, a housing shortage due to the war led to many mansions being sub-divided into apartments, a few renting as high as $95/month. This trend has continued to this day, although condominiums and townhouse developments are now the norm.
The walk takes you through an area with stately mansions located in a unique Garry oak parkland. It includes the three Rockland landmarks – Government House, Craigdarroch Castle, and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. This self-guided walk features several homes of interest designed by leading architects and builders of the last two centuries. It also includes more modest structures, the dwellings of the middle class. The tour starts on Linden Avenue, at the western border of the Rockland neighbourhood, continues east along Rockland Avenue, down a few side streets, north on Pemberton Road, along Fort Street, south on St. Charles Street, along Rockland Avenue, left on Terrace Avenue, a short walk to McGregor Avenue, and finally along Oak Bay Avenue to Rockland. The final tour is of the area surrounding Craigdarroch Castle. The entire walk may take a few hours or can be completed in shorter walks.
The walk has been divided into 4 sections. With the first 3 tours, each succeeding tour starts where the previous one leaves off. The fourth tour can be reached by a short 10-minute walk from the end of tour 3.