Once the largest saltwater swimming pool in the British Empire, the Crystal Garden opened in 1925. Designed for multiple use by Frances Rattenbury and P. Leonard James, the Crystal Garden was Victoria’s first convention centre, an arboretum, a restaurant, and art gallery, as well as a swimming pool, and was operated by special arrangement by the Canadian Pacific Railway until 1964.
The Crystal Garden was a focus for community events and featured two full ballroom dance floors, a gymnasium, tea room, and Turkish baths. Special events included beauty contests, business conferences, art shows and military training exercises.
The lease with the CPR expired in 1965 and the building reverted to the City of Victoria. It was closed in 1971 and was later handed over to the Province and placed under the Provincial Capital Commission’s stewardship, opening in 1980 as a tropical garden and conservation centre. The garden exhibit closed in September 2004, and a new, privately operated multi-media attraction about British Columbia (BC Experience) operated from June to September, 2006.
From 2005 to 2008, the Crystal Garden building has undergone two major restorations in addition to numerous tenant improvements. The 80-year-old heritage building was brought up to modern seismic and snowload standards and its iconic glass roof was replaced. Overall, the Provincial Capital Commission put $3.6 million into structural upgrades and the provincial government contributed an additional $1.5 million.
The main part of the Crystal Garden now operates as part of the Victoria Conference Centre. For rental information on conference centre rentals and events, please contact www.victoriaconference.com.
For more detailed information about this iconic heritage building, visit the Crystal Garden Website