Who doesn’t love a murder mystery? Especially when it involves scandal, intrigue, scorned lovers and a grisly end from a harsh series of mallet blows about the head. Many believe Francis Rattenbury’s ghost still walks the halls of the Parliament Buildings and the Empress Hotel in Victoria, two of his most famous landmarks that today form an integral part of the city’s landscape and create a draw for locals and visitors alike. But the story is much more than that, and begins with a young man who launches a career that will span the years and leave a lasting impression on all the cities he worked in.
The story of Francis Rattenbury’s life is a source of discussion even today, being featured recently in The Globe and Mail in 2014, as well as being featured on Wikipedia and on the site Canadaka.net. This is truly one of those times where truth is way stranger than fiction. At the time of this writing, we even understand that an opera is in the works. What a terrific subject to inspire such a production.
Today Francis’ house is an integral part of a world-famous private school called Glenlyon Norfolk School. This wonderful institution is well known for helping to craft some of our brightest young minds; our finest future leaders in politics and commerce. Nestled perfectly on some of the most beautiful grounds to be seen in the Victoria area, having such a setting to study must be inspirational for those who wander the halls and grounds today.
We just love how the school had so gracefully intertwined the new structures with the heritage house, creating a terrific facility that is sympathetic to both the rich history, as well as the area itself.
For those interested in seeing and learning about some of his most iconic designs here on Vancouver Island, we have covered the BC Legislative Buildings, The Empress Hotel, and the Nanaimo Courthouse in our post titled “Hallowed Halls Of Justice“. Mr. Rattenbury also designed other famous buildings in Vancouver, Calgary, and Lake Louise, amongst other locations. The world-class Chateau Lake Louise is a stunning facility that draws people from all over the world who come to see the epic and majestic beauty that can only be found in the Canadian Rockies.
Sure, Vancouver Island’s history may not go back that far, especially when compared to the thousands of years that are recorded in Europe. But, our history is diverse and really interesting, with much of our contemporary society being inspired by the settlers who came from England in the mid to late 1800’s. The lives they led when arriving here were no picnic, to say the least, the conditions were extreme and survival was a challenge. Yet through these trials and tribulations, a community emerged, one that has had a lasting impact.
It’s appropriate that we end our walkaround tour of Francis Rattenbury’s Heritage House by visiting what would have been his backyard. This is the view he and his wife would have enjoyed for the years that they lived here during the time when he was an up-and-coming architect, enjoying the privilege that came with this. In the distance we see the Oak Bay Marina and one of the condominiums that pepper the shoreline of the drive that leads through the area. If you look closely, you will see a Heron in the shallow waters near shore, enjoying the warm rays of the morning sun and perhaps doing a little fishing to land some breakfast and get the day started off right.
If you’ve found this post interesting we really encourage you to spend some time poking around some of the links we’ve shared here. They paint a picture of a story that is rooted in both mystery and wonder, and shares a little of the personality of Vancouver Island. And perhaps if you visit some of these landmarks in person, you may hear for yourself the footsteps of Francis Rattenbury as he wanders the halls and grounds of the buildings that he so lovingly designed for us all to appreciate and enjoy. After all, don’t we all want to be remembered for what we’ve left behind?
Thank you so much for taking the time to visit us here at The Hollow today, we really appreciate it. As always, we love to hear from all our visitors, so please feel free to leave us any comments you may have below!