Dunmora: the story of a heritage manor house on Vancouver Island
Author: Green, Valerie
ISBN Hardcover: 978-0-88839-005-9
ISBN Softcover: 978-0-88839-008-0
Format: Trade Hardcover w/ DJ & Trade Softcover
Size: 12" x 9"
Publication Date: Dec 11 2017
Step back in time and listen to the walls talking as the writer describes a totally different world through almost ten decades in the life of Dunmora, a heritage manor house on the Saanich Peninsula of Vancouver Island. The reader will relish learning about the different owners and the many visitors that came to the house through the years. Numerous anecdotes of neighbours and faithful Chinese staff will be enjoyed as will the plethora of archival and modern photographs of this beautiful home and estate overlooking the Saanich Inlet. A fascinating, undiscovered gem of history makes for a good read.
Dunmora tells an intriguing story of a heritage house on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, built in 1922 by the May family who enjoyed a simple, pastoral existence on the peninsula in the days when wealthy families hired faithful Chinese servants, gardeners and nannies. Spanning the years from the 1920s and 30s, through World War II, the turbulent 60s, 70s and 80s and into the Millennium, the book includes tales of the famous visitors who came to Dunmora such as the Lord Mayor of London during WWII; Flt.Lt. Alex Gardner-Medwin who used the house as a base for conducting bombing drills over the Saanich inlet; friend Cecil Meares (adventurer and dog handler for the Robert Falcon Scott Expedition to the South Pole); and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and his wife Margaret and other Ministers who came for meetings held there during the 1970s when the house was owned by Donald Cormie of the Principal Group notoriety. Dunmora also hosted celebrities such as Jack Nicholson, David Foster, Gordie Howe, Elizabeth Manley, and Jimmy Patterson. Hollywood came to Dunmora and movies were shot there.
The reader is taken on a journey of family ups and downs through six ownerships with much of Greater Victoria’s history is also intertwined into the evolution of the house. That evolution through subsequent ownership has enabled the legacy of family love foreseen by the original owners to be maintained and carried into the future. Today, restored to its former glory, Dunmora is valued as “the grandest early twentieth-century estate home in Central Saanich on Vancouver Island.” Its story is well worth telling.
Born and educated in England, Valerie Green has a background in journalism and law and worked for a while at MI5 in London. She moved to Canada in 1968, met her future husband and they made their home in Victoria where they raised a son and a daughter.
Valerie continued a career in freelance writing as a columnist, feature writer and author of 20 non-fiction historical and true-crime books. Her debut novel (part of a family saga series) will also be published in 2017.
Her love of history in general and heritage houses, in particular, has been a constant throughout her life. Today, she is semi-retired and is enjoying watching her two grandsons grow up as she continues to indulge in her passion for writing.
“Dunmora” is the name of an impressive Tudor Revival-style house that was built in 1922. It is located north of Victoria, on the west side of the Saanich Peninsula. Today, the address is 480 Dunmora Court. It is reached via MacPhail Road, which runs off West Saanich Road near Mt. Newton Cross Road. Dunmora: The Story of a Heritage Manor House on Vancouver Island is a building biography that is situated at a place where public history, genealogy, architectural history and social history meet. The cataloguing in publication data provided by Library and Archives Canada indicates that Dunmora relates to the history of British Columbia, and so it does. But there are also elements of British imperial history and recent Alberta history in this book.
It is written by Valerie Green, a popular and prolific historian whose previous publications include If These Walls Could Talk: Victoria’s Houses from the Past (Touchwood Editions, 2001) and If More Walls Could Talk: Vancouver Island’s Houses from the Past (Touchwood Editions, 2004). The book was commissioned by the present owners of Dunmora, Steve and Lera Zakreski. As the author acknowledges “serendipity” brought her and the Zakreskis together for this project (p. 105). Their partnership resulted in a coffee table-style book that will interest many readers. But the audience for this book will be segmented.
The book is organized chronologically and follows the fortunes of various families who made Dunmora their home. Gerald and Léonie May were the first owners. They owned this place for forty years and an adjacent home, called “New Dunmora,” for another thirty years.
... But ultimately this is a book about a particular house rather than a social class or family. In her concluding chapter, the author describes “Dunmora today — restored and renovated to modern-day standards,” as “an outstanding example of heritage restoration at its best. Dunmora’s historical value has been preserved and protected to ensure its use for future generations” (p. 102).
This chronicle, Dunmora, is also admirable for its achievement. Valerie Green shows how a very localized study, when placed in context, can illuminate larger narratives about families, places, and historical events.
-- Review by Patrick Dunae, a Victoria-born historian who has taught courses on BC history at the University of Victoria (UVic) and Vancouver Island University (VIU). Published in the Ormsby Review.
View the full review here.