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1912::The Olmsted Design of the 'Uplands' of Vancouver Island

Updated: Nov 29, 2022

Pioneer of Landscape Architecture designs initial plan of the Uplands in Oak Bay.

1912::Pioneer of Landscape Architecture designs Uplands in Oak Bay.

"The Olmsted Design of the 'Uplands' of Vancouver Island" Advertisement Clip: Victoria Daily Times (1912) Victoria, British Columbia

"Uplands is the most alluring and beautiful piece of suburban natural park property and is the most attractively and effectively designed residential district to be found in any city in the Pacific Northwest." - 1920 Sales Pamphlet for the Uplands

In 1907, world-famous landscape architect John Olmsted checked into the Driard Hotel in Victoria, BC. He was taking time out from his project in Seattle where he was working on design details for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition that was to launch in 1909. But his visit to Victoria wasn't entirely a pleasure call. He was previewing property for development rounding the east side of Oak Bay at the southern tip of Vancouver Island.


The old 'Uplands Farm' in Oak Bay, all 465 acres with roots dating back to the days of Fort Victoria, was being sold off. A Winnipeg development firm had purchased 65 acres of the farm situated alongside Cadboro Bay Road and sought to divide the property into large lots. Olmsted was hired to study the property's natural beauty and work it into a design scheme of luxury estates suitable for those willing to endure tight beautification restrictions imposed over the land... forever.


1920::The Uplands Trolley passing Willows School, Oak Bay, BC

"The Uplands Trolley with Willows School in the background (1920)."

Photo: BC Archives (E-00028)


The community featured underground service wires, ornamental street lamps, sewers, water, electricity and telephone. It was an offer of utmost luxury with architect-approved house designs and a 25-minute trolley service to downtown Victoria. In 1911, however, the property changed hands when the entire Uplands Farm was purchased in a land deal of all 465 acres. In 1920, the restrictions eased and 'forever' was given an expiry date of January 1, 1932. These early-day restrictions ensured the lasting look and feel of Olmsted's original plan that is still represented in the Uplands of Victoria today.


1907::John C. Olmsted, Landscape Architect.

"John C. Olmsted, Landscape Pioneer at Work"

Photo (1907): tbd


John Olmsted got his start as a young man working on New York City's 'Central Park' design project for his uncle (and adoptive father) Frederick Olmsted, who is today considered the father of Landscape Architecture. They later worked side-by-side to design the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and George Vanderbilt's 'Biltmore Estate' before taking on design projects of the west coast. Both John Olmsted and his father are credited with hundreds of significant landscape designs throughout North America.

 
1912::A closer look at the photo in the advertisement.

"1912::A closer look at the photo in the Uplands advertisement."


It is sometimes easy to forget that many of Victoria's old buildings and residences were built with the help of horses and hand-mixers.

 
Before the Uplands Farm was put up for sale, it was rented out.

"Farm to Rent: Uplands Farm"

Clip: Victoria Daily Times (1900)

Victoria, British Columbia


Before the Uplands Farm was put up for sale, it was rented out.





 
George Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate.

"George Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate."

Photo: tbd


Landscape was originally designed by John Olmsted and his father in the 1890s.





 
1912::The 465 acre land purchase as designed by John C. Olmsted in 1912.

"The 465 Acre Land Purhcase of Uplands Farm"

Clip: Victoria Daily Times (1912)

Victoria, British Columbia


The 465 acre land purchase as an expanded design by John C. Olmsted in 1912.


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