Open doors at Seaside
It is obvious that Seaside Cottage has gotten a new lease on life. There is a new porch out back, the inside walls are painted and the cabinets have been repaired. Michael Chapman is the cottage’s new resident and has offered to open its doors to community members on Sunday, February 24, from 2 to 4 p.m. as part of the celebration of B.C. Heritage Week. He is, however, asking that visitors take off their shoes and boots to protect the newly refurbished hard-wood floors.
Last year, Chapman applied for the position of the caretaker for Seaside and the Davies Orchard cottages that are part of Crippen Park and administered by Metro Vancouver Parks. He was hired in October and is thrilled with his new digs. “I have nearly 300 hectares of park in my back yard,” he said. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve seen a Red-tailed Hawk, herons, eagles, ravens and thrushes.”
Chapman believes that putting some time and money into Bowen’s historical cabins is a good investment, both for Bowen and for Metro Vancouver. “This is a wonderful opportunity to invite people to that great park we have and make it more attractive,” he said.
Chapman first came to live on Bowen in 1979 when he moved to Bowen Bay with his dad, stepmom and sister. He went to West Vancouver Secondary School and says that he’s pleased that some of the people he went to school with are still around. In 1985, he built a house in Deep Bay for his mother, before leaving the island. When she passed away in 1988, he returned to Bowen where he lived and worked until 1992. “I sold the house in ‘92 and moved to Savary. Then I went back to school and got a degree in unemployment and poverty - it’s a political science and fine arts degree,” Chapman said. “I came back to Bowen in 2004 and haven’t left much since.”
One of the things Chapman likes about his new job is that it allows him to live and work on Bowen (he used to commute to downtown Vancouver and had to leave and arrive in the dark). He says that there are two aspects to the position. “The first is restorative carpentry that includes the general upkeep of this property,” Chapman says, pointing out the new deck and new patio stones. “It also includes restorative work on the cabins in Davies Orchard as the budget allows. The other component deals with security.” Chapman explains that he is not a Metro Vancouver employee but was asked to keep an eye out for illegal activity or vandalism. But his role doesn’t include enforcement. In addition to the caretaker position, Chapman works as a captain for Cormorant Marine.
Seaside was a special place for Chapman even before he moved in and he’s pieced together some of the cottage’s history. “It was built by the family who owned Golden Seal Liquor, the largest liquor distribution company in British Columbia,” Chapman says. “When they built their house in Shaughnessy, they hired Samuel Maclure and asked him to work on Seaside as well. Out of all the cottages in the orchard, this one is very distinctive, just look at the roof lines and the details.”
Of the inhabitants who came before him, Chapman knows of Harry Patrick, Caroline O’Neill, David Faber, and Rob Wright, a well-known island character and editor of the High Tide. Seaside has stood empty since Wright left Bowen in May 2010. The recent renovations were executed by Eric Blomberg’s company with Chapman’s help and have done wonders for the three-bedroom cottage. The 100-year-old chimney still works and an old bathtub has been moved from BeeGee, the cottage next door that is still in a bad state of repair. “I wish [Metro Vancouver] would make [BeeGee] into a welcome centre for the park, maybe with a couple of washrooms,” says Chapman, brimming with enthusiasm for the cottages’ future.