Early memories of the cottages
The seaside cottages have a history which pre-dates the Union Steamship resort. When they were considered for demolition several years ago, Bowen Heritage was able to convince GVRD Parks staff of their heritage importance. Luckily through the memories of my sister Margaret, who knew the Tulk family, the original owners of Seaside 1, we were able to contact a member of that family regarding the history of their cottage. The Tulks owned the Gold Seal Liquor Company and were wealthy enough to engage architect Samuel McClure to design their house in Vancouver. This house still stands, and is a part of Vancouver’s heritage. The Bowen house was built in the early 1900s on land that was leased from Captain Cates, owner of the Terminal Steamship resort. They built a charming entrance gate and named the cottage “Bide-a-Wee”. A young daughter was a schoolmate of my sister Margaret in 1918. The family left the island before the U.S.S. Co. acquired the resort.
Seaside 2, now called BG, was also built before the U.S.S. Co. owned the land. There is no record of the original builder, but its architecture indicates it was not designed for the U.S.S. Co. Tommy White of Sannie fame, stayed in this cottage with his mother, during summers in the early 1920s, then later, after his mother’s death, with his wife, Mary Marshall. My uncle, William Linklater, who was head carpenter and building designer for the U.S. S. Co., moved into the cottage for the winter months because it was warmer than his summer cottage on Alder Trail. Several other cottages were built on land originally leased from Capt. Cates. Most have gone, but some still remain on Melmore Road and at Snug Point.
The architect of the 20 U.S.S. Co. Orchard cottages is also unknown. However, I do know that my uncle William Linklater was in charge of the construction and ordering of building materials. The company also owned a resort in Sechelt where a cluster of similar cottages were built in an old orchard. Two of them may still exist.
Some of my earliest memories of the Davies Orchard area concern the early 1930s. when I visited school friends. Their parents were employees of the U.S.S. Co., allowing them to live in Orchard cottages year-round. I also remember participating in bake sales on the verandah of cottage no. 20. Some of the women who spent summers in the Orchard, went to the United Church. My mother, Laura Collins was active in the Ladies Aid and recruited some of the summer tenants to help raise funds for the new church.
I remember delivering milk from Collins farm to people who lived in the cottages. This was always early in the morning and I can still recall the beauty of the place. The fruit trees had more of a presence then, likely because they were younger and well cared for. Without the marina, Snug Cove was very visible from the cottages, and the bank was clear of vegetation. There was no boardwalk, just a simple dirt and pebble walkway which led from Government Road to no. 4 playground, the festival field. A series of cement light standards with electric lights bordered the walkway and lit the path at night. Only part of one of those light standards still remains at the end of Davies Creek.
After the demise of the U.S.S. Co. resort and steamship service in the 1960s, the Orchard and Seaside cottages became home to a succession of people attracted to the advantages of living in the modest cottages near the cove. Changes in landlords and neglect led to deterioration and loss of some of the cottages. In 1984, they became part of Crippen Park, under the jurisdiction of the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD)/Metro Vancouver. Somewhere in my files I have a copy of the deliberations of a GVRD parks board meeting of the 1980s in which is recorded that “the GVRD sees no historic value in the orchard cabins.” That statement gave added impetus to a group of us who, in 1989, formed the “Bowen Island Heritage Preservation Association.” With rallies, demonstrations, marching bands, the Raging Grannies and intervention by BC Heritage Trust, the GVRD board was persuaded to change its mind. We were unable to halt an existing edict to destroy two more, which left the present 10 in the Orchard. Two had been sold to the new marina owner.
That was 23 years ago. Bowen Heritage has carried on and accomplished much in those years. An information centre and museum were established in restored cottages and emergency restoration work was carried out in others. Raising public awareness through fund raising has seen the Heritage Association receive awards for two publications: a Heritage Walking Tour and Life in an Orchard. As well federal and provincial recognition was awarded for the Davies Orchard Restoration Project and for the panels displaying the history of the Union Steamship Company. Two cottages have been restored by the GVRD/Metro Vancouver.
A more recent addition is a community garden growing heritage seeds, that, along with new heritage apple trees, recapture and showcase the early work of William Davies, the original owner.
A recent video on the Bowen Heritage web site, www.bowenheritage.org/ tells the story of the urgent need for intervention to save all of the cottages. I hope the efforts of the past 23 years will be rewarded with a surge of public and Metro Vancouver support to ensure the preservation of both these important sites.
special to the Undercurrent