Admiral’s ‘Little’ gift follows big tradition

Little house

The Topshee family, (from left) Charlotte Topshee, Vice-Admiral Angus Topshee, Audrey Topshee, and Iris Topshee are joined by Ray Young of I Used To Be a Pallet and his wife Lana Young. The Little Library was revealed during a ceremony in Dockyard on Nov. 14. Photo: Peter Mallett/Lookout Newspaper`

Peter Mallett, 
Staff Writer

A realistic replica of the Admiral’s Residence is now turning heads – and pages – in Dockyard at CFB Esquimalt.

The Little Library at the corner of Hospital Road and Rainbow Drive was unveiled on Nov. 14 as a gift by Vice-Admiral (VAdm) Topshee and his family to the house and its future tenants. The act of generosity follows a time-honoured tradition at CFB Esquimalt, said VAdm Topshee.

“Traditionally, when current tenants leave the Admiral’s house, they leave behind a gift to the house,” he said. “There have been many intriguing gifts over the years.”

Gifts from past residents include an intricate Indigenous art carving gifted by Rear-Admiral (RAdm) Ronald Buck, a south-facing porthole-style window looking over the Pacific Ocean by RAdm Robert Yanow and a hand-carved wooden table gifted to the house by RAdm Gilles Couturier. Another part of the tradition, noted VAdm Topshee, is that the tenants plant a tree on property grounds when they leave.

The idea for a Little Library came from Audrey Topshee, VAdm Topshee’s wife. Little Libraries intend for visitors to take a book or leave a book for others to read.

Audrey said each member of the family is an avid reader.

“We like to read, share reading with others, and are local library ‘nerds’. We wanted to leave a gift for the house that was unique, distinctive, and attractive, and could be enjoyed by many, not just the occupants of the house,” she said. “The Little Library was just the perfect all-around fit, once we figured out how and by whom it could be built.”

Audrey was impressed by some other custom-built Little Libraries in Saanich and Oak Bay, and connected with their creator, Victoria craftsman Ray Young, to get the project for the Admiral’s Residence rolling.

Young is a retired management consultant who took up woodworking as a hobby ten years ago. He said he was pleased with how the library turned out.

“It was very fulfilling to work on, and I was intrigued to work on a building with such an interesting history,” Young said.

Before the Admiral’s Residence, Young built a replica of a building at the University of British Columbia and completed replicas of private homes. Some of Young’s other Little Libraries can be found on Washington Avenue and Parry Street in Victoria, B.C.

He said building a Little Library for the Admiral’s Residence is likely the highest-profile project he has worked on. The Little Library in Dockyard is 30” wide x 26” deep x 28” high. Young said it could hold approximately 60 books.

Young toured the Admiral’s Residence before creating the Library.

He used cedar to make the siding and pallet wood for trim, shingles and tar for the roof and double-paned glass for the Little Library’s windows. He used paint chips to match up the exterior.

When Audrey and the family got a sneak peek of Young’s completed work late last summer, she was taken aback.

“We were just amazed and stunned by its beauty and authenticity,” she said. “We stared at all of the detailing he had done and just couldn’t believe how beautiful and real-looking it was.”

Although behind a security checkpoint, the Admiral’s Residence Little Library in the Dockyard is available to all avid readers at CFB Esquimalt.

Did you know?

The Capital Regional District has over 600 Little Libraries for anyone interested in sharing or taking books without access to this stunning Little Library in Dockyard!

Local Little Libraries:

  • The Lookout office, 1522 Esquimalt Road
  • Rocky Point Ammunitions Depot, 5601 Rocky Point Road

Work Point has access to Little Libraries on:

  • Bewdley Avenue
  • Munroe Street
  • Wychbury Avenue

Visit  to see a map of Little Libraries in the region.

Ray Young of I Used To Be a Pallet delivers the Little Library. “It was a very fulfilling project to work on and I am very pleased with how it turned out.” Photo: Peter Mallett

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