A New Book!


The BC Agricultural Association Exhibition Building at the Willows

is available at the following fine bookstores:

Munro’s Books in downtown Victoria

Bolen Books at Hillside Shopping Centre

Ivy’s Books in Oak Bay

                                Tanner’s Books in Sidney, B.C.

Second Edition. 349 pages. 293 illustrations. Footnotes. Index. ISBN 978-1-7751204-1-4 Softcover. $29.95
Historic Media. www.LostVictoria.com

Review and Excerpt in the Times-Colonist

A full page excerpt and review of the Exhibition Building Book appeared in the Times-Colonist  ‘Islander’ section on December 9, 2018.

It featured three coloured renderings of the building by Ron Soule, and a 1,000-word book excerpt, as well as a review from Dave Obee, the editor and publisher of the Times-Colonist.

Book review: A history of a remarkable structure from Victoria’s past.


Book excerpt: The race to build the city’s ‘Crystal Palace’


Exhibition Building INTERIOR PANORAMA

 The only known interior panorama of the Crystal Palace from 1901. Daily Colonist photo.

The Second Edition of 

The BC Agricultural Association Exhibition Building at the Willows
was printed in September 2018.

Revised and expanded, the book now contains thirty new pages of text and illustrations, totalling 293 illustrations, many never seen before. The only panorama illustration of the interior of the Exhibition Building is revealed, as are several photographs of exhibits in the building.

Cover 2018 Edition Exhibition Book

On September 27, 2018, Stuart Stark presented a lecture on the Exhibition Building to The Victoria Historical Society. Around 60 people attended the lecture.

Historic Society Lecture

Stuart Stark receiving a ‘Communications Award’ from Ken Johnson, president of the Hallmark Heritage Society, May 1, 2018 for his book:
The BC Agricultural Association Exhibition Building at the Willows

Stuart receiving Hallmark Society Communications Award from Ken Johnson, President

 Stuart Winning Hallmark Award for Exhibition Book


 Stuart at Tanner's Books Sidney

Author Stuart Stark at Tanner’s Books, Sidney, B.C.





Book signing at Bolen Books on April 28, 2018

To celebrate Canadian Independent Bookstore Day!
Booksigning at Bolen Books April 28, 2018
Bolen Books, Hillside Shopping Centre, Victoria, B.C.

Bolen Books Signing April 28, 2018

New Book Launched on December 15, 2017!
See details below.

Cover, Exhibition Book for SStark websiteThe B.C. Agricultural Association 
Exhibition Building at the Willows

Stuart Stark, award-winning Heritage Consultant, tells the grand story of Victoria’s astonishing ‘Crystal Palace’, which was built in 1891  and burned in a night-time conflagration in 1907. 

Using social and architectural history,  the history of the Exhibition Building is recounted,  starting in 1861, when the first agricultural exhibition was held as a means of survival for the people living in the Colony of Vancouver’s Island. 

The exhibitions developed and grew, culminating in the construction of the landmark building, built on the fortieth anniversary of its London namesake.  The roles of the Secretaries of the Agricultural Association – and the hundreds of private individuals and many city councils who planned, organized and controlled the exhibitions – and the politics that made the building possible provide the compelling background of a little–known building that was important to the lives of early Victorians. Fifty-eight agricultural exhibitions were held over the course of 81 years, through social changes, economic tribulations and two wars, until the last Exhibition was held in 1941. 

In an age before emails and computers, the amazing accomplishments of a city are celebrated.  Royal visits, wonderful exhibits, horse-racing, circuses, fireworks, sports, sideshows and gold medals frame the story of the Exhibition Building as a place “where everyone could come and do their best”. 

The agricultural exhibitions developed from an annual show of animals and produce to a huge fairground showcasing industrial exhibitions, automobile shows and movie production facilities.  The city’s own history is reflected in the account of this great building, and the exhibitions that came before and after, allow a unique perspective of a town’s story.

With 242 illustrations, including some amazing architectural renderings constructed by Ron Soule, the great-grandson of the building’s original architect, the Exhibition Building comes back to life, as never before.

320 pages. 242 illustrations. Footnotes. Index. ISBN 978-1-77512-040-7 Softcover. 6″ x 9″
Historic Media.  www.LostVictoria.com

The Book was launched on December 15, 2017, at the Oak Bay Library.
It is available at:

• Ivy’s Bookshop, 2188 Oak Bay Avenue, Victoria, B.C. 250-598-2713

• Munro’s Books, 1108 Government Street, Victoria, B.C., 250-382-2464 

• Bolen Books, Hillside Shopping Centre, Victoria B.C., 250-595-1458

• Tanner’s Books, Beacon Avenue, Sidney, B.C. 250-656-2345

Price: $29.95




Munro's Books LOGO 



Bolen Books logo


Tanner's Books LOGO 



Book Launch was held at the Oak Bay Library on December 15, 2017, sponsored by Oak Bay Heritage; the Oak Bay Archives; and the Greater Victoria Public Library.

Book Launch at Oak Bay Library December 15, 2017


Top: Stuart Stark presents a copy of the book to Caroline Duncan, Archivist, Oak Bay Archives
Middle: Signing the book
Bottom Left: Cake featuring the book cover.
Bottom Right: Stuart Stark signing a copy of the book for Mayor of Oak Bay Nils Jensen, who introduced the author.

Stuart Stark signing Books at Ivy’s Bookshop on December 20, 2017

Stuart Signing Books at Ivy's Bookshop December 20, 2017




 Story in the Oak Bay News. Online: December 15; Print: December 20, 2017

Oak Bay News Story December 15, 2017

Top Left: Robert Taylor, president Oak Bay Heritage Foundation; Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen; Victoria Councillor Pam Madoff; Stuart Stark
Top right: Stuart Stark explaining the Exhibition Building
Bottom Left: The book cover rendered in cake, courtesy of the Oak Bay Heritage Foundation
Bottom Right: Mayor Jensen and Stuart Stark

Thank you.

Henry’s Lights

Just because there has been a gap in blogging  does not mean there has been a gap in writing. The major biography was completed and sent out for readings.  Carefully considered reviews and good comments were received back. A re-edit commenced, mostly shortening for length, a painful, but necessary task. Although it is sad to see carefully researched facts drop away,  the story is better for it, reading more smoothly.

Then an unexpected and previously undiscovered interview with the subject of the biography turned up, giving chapter and verse of his earlier life, covering previously unknown facts and times. So, back to the keyboard in order to weave the new facts into the amazing story of his life. Stay tuned.

Cover Henry's Lights FIRST DRAFTIn the meantime, a long short story – by length, properly called a ‘Novelette’ – called ‘Henry’s Lights’ was completed, set in west London, starting in the 1940s, and telling the story of one man’s obsession over a span of fifty years.

And then, the offer of a lecture for the Oak Bay Heritage Foundation – which started as telling the story contained in one chapter of the big biography – started another piece of writing.

Please see the next (newer) Blog for more details…




Remembering, rather than researching

Backhall JolimontPeople often mention that research must be hard work. But I have been lucky to have lived in old houses for much of my life, and good friends have also lived in old houses. For many years, my social circle surprisingly did not include anyone who lived in a modern house. It was natural that conversations with those friends frequently contained references to the people that built their homes, so long ago. The family names of people who lived in the 1890s are as familiar to me – as were their places of work, and their activities and their travels – as friends and colleagues’ lives are today. 

So when it came to writing about people living at the end of the 19th century, it is more a process of remembering. The faces of the new characters changed, of course, but their milieu is similar to the old familiar friends. To me, the 19th century is not a foreign place.

Extensive new research lays the groundwork, and ensures the accuracy of my writing, but the atmosphere is all based on memory and experiences.


Inspiration in the English Countryside

Woodspring PrioryI have just returned from England, where I was doing research for my next biography.

I was lucky to find an historic location that was essentially untouched, set in coastal meadows, and protected from the sea breezes by grass-covered dunes. The only sounds were bumblebees foraging among the spring flowers, and the bleating of sheep. Fat, wooly ewes shepherded their new lambs among the tender green grasses, unconcerned with strangers in their midst. Lush fields surrounded me, outlined with spring-fed, water-filled ditches. May trees were flowering, defining hedgerows, their white blossoms adding their sweet scent to the air. The sky was an intense blue on the day of my visit, dotted with small white clouds scudding across the sky. 

Here, in this peaceful, sheltered place, stood a cluster of golden coloured stone buildings dating back centuries. They seemed tranquil, but within their walls, they harboured secrets of earlier times. Long ago, monks had worked and lived here. In later years farmers had taken ownership of the gothic buildings, adapting them as barns and as a farmhouse. 

The subject of my next book came here on a visit around 1880, not knowing that his actions on that day would lead indirectly to his death a world away twenty-one years later.

The story has started to unfold…

Brexit: The UK leaves Europe: Observations from a tourist.

Changing topics: I arrived back in Canada a week before the UK voted to leave Europe. The vote was no surprise to me. I had spent most of my trip in the country, which the politicians clearly had not done. The London-based establishment had been so obsessed with their own specific interests that they had neglected their own citizens’ concerns and desires. Along train lines farmers had posted signs encouraging people to vote ‘Leave’. Fishermen in the southwest were still angry about the Spanish taking their fish. Farmers were being paid to keep fields fallow. The concern I was indirectly hearing was of the loss of the British (or English) ‘culture’, the global homogenization of every-day life; the eradication of what was once special, and unique. The taking away of what people still hold dear.

London is another world. Already cosmopolitan, such eradication of values has already happened there; it is of no concern. But in the country, and in smaller cities and towns it is still important enough for people to make a stand for the preservation of what people consider important in their lives, and what they deemed they have already lost, and would continue to lose under the Euro blanket.

After returning, and watching the arguments still taking place up until the vote itself, I heard wealthy London businessmen selfishly talk about “how bad a ‘leave’ vote will be for this city, ah, um, I mean the country.” And others shockingly talking about the “white” vote in the country, ruining their plans. Those are the English people they are talking about, and they were turning the vote into an ugly, reverse racist arguement. It was a divisive, fracturing, campaign and vote.

Regardless of the greater, and very real, concerns for the security of Europe; the stability of the economy; the ease of trade across Europe; it was all indicative of a government that had either disregarded – or ignored – its citizens. A very bad position to be in.  

End of observations. 


On to a new subject…

Finally, the subject(s) of my new book is/are gaining ground, and becoming an influence. Questions are forming about him (or rather, ‘them’).

I am looking forward, this summer, to travelling where one of them stood, in an ancient building, in an ancient landscape, and trying to capture some of the sights and smells that influenced his experiences in the 19th century. After all, it was an important period in his life, and one that ultimately would inform both his life and – had he but known it at the time – his death. An inconsequential day, a peaceful day, by all appearances, but by the vagaries of the cosmos, a defining moment.

It will be interesting to experience that place, and that time, and to absorb some feeling of the place, to transfer it onto paper to set the scene, and start the story…


Shades of past lives – reflections on influence

After five years of research – not totally continuously – it is weird to come to a halt, so to speak. The book is finished, the edits completed, and the mind should have turned to the new project, and turned off from this all-encompassing subject…

But he is still there, the subject of the book. He still influences one’s thoughts; and he references and shades one’s reading; and his experiences still colour one’s own life. Not family; not even a friend; but a presence that one has gone after, cultivated, grown, encouraged. And he is unaware of this concentrated, one-sided attention – at least, one thinks so. Then the (very) few missing patches – here and there – are filled in; linking together the story and revealing a life that disappeared long ago. But there are clues that linger into the present. Still here, if you open your eyes, your senses, your mind.

And wonder about the almost palpable ‘weight’ of those who have come before, living their lives: are they aware, or unaware of what they leave behind? What cosmic energy allows that legacy? What influences are we leaving behind, as we simply live our own lives?


Researching in another language…

Having recently received a sheaf of letters from an archives in South America – all written in Spanish – I was faced with important, but unreadable research. Growing up with English as my primary language, I had also studied French in school (like any good Canadian), but had not required any other languages. With English and some French, I had successfully navigated around Quebec and Europe, and I found that simply pronouncing German signs usually produced an understanding of their meaning.  However, never having been to Iberia, I had not embarked on Spanish. So, with the subject of my next biography having spent some time in South America – time critical to his story – I had to break that barrier.

With the sheaf of unreadable letters on my desk, the work of translation had to begin! Fortunately, Spanish is one of the “Romance languages”, and has some similarities to French, and even English. Translating the letters led to a further level of difficulty when the letters turned out to be mostly of a technical nature, and included 140 year-old jargon. But the meanings slowly revealed themselves, and another piece of the intriguing puzzle that was my subject’s life started falling into place.

Do you like your subject?

I have heard authors interviewed who have just completed a biography, as to whether they liked their subject. I have thought that an odd question, given that a good biography should be impartially based on facts – a retelling, as it were – of actual events. Liking, or not, should have no bearing on the subject or the telling of a great story.

So, having completed a biography where – thankfully – lots of great details came to light during research, I had to ask the same question of myself: Did I like my subject? Not at first, I had to admit, though he was intriguing, his family background fascinating, and his own travails were riveting. He did not initially appear to have much moral fibre, which led him into great difficulties. Of course, this, in itself, can be the basis of a story worth telling.

But tracking someone over the course of their lifetime gives you an greater understanding of their life, their interactions, and their development as a person. As their life unfolds, their experiences broaden, and their changing reactions to a variety of circumstances are revealed. And knowing a man as closely as it is possible to know him, after the fact, allows you to answer that question. Yes, I like him.

Rewarding Research…

Research is sometimes fun, mostly very hard work, but always rewarding. During the course of assembling the background for my first biography, I was thankful that small town newspapers actually existed, and stalwart reporters actually reported. The minutiae of details that made it into print in the late 1800s and early 1900s is staggering, when seen through today’s eyes. We may have Twitter, texting, email and Instagram, but they are essentially ephemeral mediums. Here right now, and then replaced with something even newer.

Not so with old newspapers. Within their pages was the only means for people to keep in touch with the events in their town. Who was staying at the local hotel? Who had just left town to visit a sick relative? What colour was their cat? (I’m not kidding…)

Like today, people were intensely curious about other people’s lives. With no other alternative to keep up with their neighbours, this marvellous recording of lives exposed the ebb and flow of society. Contained within yellowing sheets of acidic paper is a great richness of information, just waiting to be mined.

Hardships in the 1800s…

While preparing my recent book, I was impressed – and sometimes amazed – at the hardships people took for granted in the late 1800s. Admittedly, in another 100 years from now, people will likely look back on our lives and consider them the dark ages, as they live in Virtual Reality, with the heady possibility of molecular transport as per Star Trek.

City of MontrealBut in 1888, people seem to have thought nothing of embarking on a forty-three day ocean voyage, with unknown destinations ahead. Researching one of my recent lectures revealed trains snowed-in for two days while travelling through the Rockies in 1874, and losing the ship’s rudder in the mid-Atlantic in a January storm in 1879. Both events seemed to be taken as minor aggravations, rather than the disaster some travellers face today when they are confronted with a forty-five minute flight delay.