Ardoon (house)

Ardoon was the residence of Robert and Joan Dunsmuir in Nanaimo, B.C. It was the third house they occupied in Nanaimo. The first one was a Hudson's Bay Company miner's cabin on Front Street. The family moved from here to a new larger cabin on the Ardoon site on the harbour in 1858. This was replaced with Ardoon. The date of Ardoon's construction was probably 1876.1. Dunsmuir descendant James Audain believed it was built in 1872, and he attributes the design to Robert Dunsmuir’s “friend”, D.W. Gordon.2.  Gordon was a Member of Parliament for Nanaimo and advertised his professional services in the Nanaimo Free Press variously as “Architect” and “Builder” over a fairly lengthy career.3.  His commission to design Ardoon is confirmed in his February 20, 1893 obituary the Nanaimo Free Press. The house sat at what is today the lot at the southwest corner of Albert and Wallace Streets.
Ardoon was likely the most opulent residence in Nanaimo for many years. It served not only as a home for the growing Dunsmuir family, but also as a place for business.  In 1877, Dunsmuir was dealing with his first major labour strike at the Wellington Colliery. He summoned associates to Ardoon, where they sat in its luxurious parlour tooling a strategy to end the miners’ occupation of company housing.4. And years later, when Dunsmuir sought the contract to build the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway, he hosted an overnight visit to Ardoon by Sir Charles Tupper, Canada’s Minister of Railways.5.  By far the most prestigious guest at Ardoon was the Marquis of Lorne, Governor-General of Canada, who stopped for an overnight stay on October 20, 1882.6. The Governor-General’s wife was Princess Louise, a daughter of Queen Victoria. It seems she decided not to travel to Nanaimo, and instead stayed at Government House in Victoria.
When Robert and Joan Dunsmuir moved to Victoria in 1883, Ardoon became home to James and Agnes Harvey and their children. Agnes was the Dunsmuir’s second daughter. She died of typhoid in the fall of 1889, and her husband James died early in 1890. A November, 1890 issue of the Nanaimo Free Press reported that Ardoon had been sold to former Nanaimo Mayor, Mark Bate.7. The newspaper reported in April, 1891 that Ardoon was “beautifully renovated”, and a week later was the scene of a wedding reception for a Bate daughter.8.   The property Ardoon sat on was sold to the "Merchant's Bank" in July, 1911. 9. Ardoon was moved to "a position off Selby Street" in July, 1912. 10.The City of Nanaimo has no record of what happened the house after that. 
Bruce Davies
  1. Terry Reksten, The Dunsmuir Saga (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1991) 29.
  2. James Audain, From Coal Mine to Castle (New York: Pageant Press, 1955) 54.
  3. Interview with volunteer researcher Peter Scott, November 2, 2001
  4. Reksten 39-40
  5. Reksten 56
  6. Reksten 60
  7. Scott
  8. Scott
  9. Nanaimo Free Press, July 31, 1911 p.1
  10. Nanaimo Herald, July 4, 1912 p.2