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Where to find heritage on Bowen: introducing the new heritage register

Here are the 10 first entries in Bowen Island's new heritage register
Wide shot of Lagoon Causeway on Bowen Island seen from the west side
The Causeway at the Lagoon dates back to 1925 and is among the inaugural 10 entries in Bowen Island's heritage register.

Our heritage may be old but the register is new.

Back in January, Bowen Island Municipality created its first heritage register, formally recognizing ten publicly owned sites as having heritage value.

How many are you familiar with?  

Bowen Island LibraryThe Old General Store, now Bowen Island Library, is Bowen's most significant USSCo. era building. By Bronwyn Beairsto

1) The Old General Store is the most significant building remaining from the Union Steamship Company era. It was built for the USSCo. in 1924 as the store and post office to serve local residents and the thousands of people brought to the company picnic grounds, cabins and hotel each summer until 1956.  (Today it is our public library).

Bowen Island Visitors' Centre The Bowen Island Visitor's Centre –Boulevard Cottage – in July 2020. By Bronwyn Beairsto

2) The Boulevard Cottage was built by the USSCo. and is named for the Boulevard (now Senator Road) – a walkway from the lagoon to Pebbly Beach. The original site of the cottage was on the promontory overlooking Mannion Bay. It is a good example of the simple utilitarian cottages built by the USSCo. during the resort era. (Today it houses The Caring Circle and Bowen Tourism).

3) The Lagoon Causeway was built by the USSCo. in 1925 to roughly align with the Lady Alexandra Promenade, providing access from the hotel on the north side of Mannion Bay as far as the Snug Cove picnic ground, now popularly known as Bowfest Field. The first crossing was a rudimentary wood bridge built between 1900 and 1910 by Captain Cates to carry supplies to his Terminal Steamship Company's Hotel Monaco. A second bridge was built around 1910 and served as the crossing until 1924 when it was destroyed by a storm. The then lamp-lit causeway, originally open to vehicle traffic, led visitors to the hotel and its rose-arboured pathway known as the Rockery where visitors could sit on the benches and listen to the orchestras playing in the bandstand. 

4) Seaside Cottage #1 was built in the early 1900's for the Tulk family, who owned the Gold Seal Liquor Co. It was called "Bide a Wee" and had a trellised gate entrance with roses growing over it. The family’s city house was built by Samuel Maclure and it is suspected that he designed this summer house. 

1232367-snug-cove-oldDavies Orchard in Snug Cove as it was in 1937. - Bowen Island Museum & Archives, donated by Joan Tennant.

5) Davies Heritage Orchard and Cottages: In 1887, pioneer William Davies pre-empted 33 acres on District Lot 777 and planted one of the earliest orchards in B.C. The tall cherry and sweet chestnut, located close to Davies Creek, are believed to be survivors from those early plantings as documented in Davies’ 1892 report to the Department of Agriculture.  In addition to growing fruit, Davies also provided wooden platforms for canvas tents for summer rentals.  In 1920 he sold the land to Frank Dobson, who, in turn, sold it to the Union Steamship Company in 1922.  The USSCo. built 20 cottages on the land in 1928, of which eight survive. The remaining Orchard Cottages are unique in the region as reminders of the pre-1950s era when steamship tourism was more popular than privately owned automobiles. The massing of these cottages as a group conveys the sense of the original arrangement of multiple, identical, small, vernacular cabins, close together and all facing the ocean, which gives a visitor a sense of the arrangement of the cottages but also a sense of the scale of the recreational facilities.

6) The Ruins in Crippen Park Meadow: These were the foundations of a dairy barn built for the cow herd of a farmer (Lister) who lived near Grafton Lake and provided milk to the Union Steamship Company. Rather than Mr. Lister and his family walking the cows to the meadow in the morning and back at night, the USSCo. built a milking barn on the meadow.  Today, the foundations are appreciated as a spot to find garter snakes. The concrete provides a hot dry area where the snakes like to bask and in winter is a hibernaculum.

Black and white photograph of two people sitting outside of a barn-looking building in the woodsHome of Einar and Muriel Neilson on the Lieben property. By Courtesy of Bowen Island Museum & Archives

7) Lieben: Built in 1941 by Norwegian-born Einar Neilson and his first wife, Patricia Fitzgerald, this waterfront property in Eaglecliff served as a retreat for artists, writers and intellectuals for approximately two decades. Patricia's father was LeMoine Fitzgerald and visitors included him and Lawren Harris, both members of the Group of Seven, and the writers Malcolm Lowry, Eric Nicol, Lister Sinclair, Margaret Laurence, Alice Munro, Dorothy Livesay, and Earle BirneyBirney later wrote to Muriel James, who married Einar in 1947: “Without you two, much that I wrote would never have been written, nor would my memories of those years now be half so dear. And literally dozens of others must feel the same.” The Neilson home was decorated with driftwood furniture made by Einar, molded brass holders for oil lamps, china and pottery displayed on open shelves and exquisite tapestries hung along the wooden walls. The property was deeded to the province in 1977 for use as a nature reserve in perpetuity.


Cpl. Paulo Arreaga and  B.C. Ambulance Service Provincial Honour Guard Janis Treleavan stand on either side of the cenotaph Remembrance Day 2018Cpl. Paulo Arreaga and B.C. Ambulance Service Provincial Honour Guard Janis Treleavan stand on either side of the cenotaph during the 2018 Remembrance Day ceremony. By Bronwyn Beairsto

8) The Cenotaph: This monument was built in 1937, a year after the Legion was established on Bowen Island, and commemorates the Bowen Island residents who served and died in the First World War, Second World War and the Korean War.  Research has reconstructed the lives of the five men whose names appear on the Cenotaph. The 1937 dedication ceremony was headed by Colonel Victor Spencer and attended by nearly 100 Spencer's Remnants, a marching band formed by Spencer’s store employees who were also veterans of the First World War.  A well-attended Remembrance Day ceremony takes place at this site annually.

Higgins' cabinThe restored Higgins' Cabin beside the Museum & Archives in 2019. By Bronwyn Beairsto

9) Higgins' Cabin: Built by logger Bert Higgins, this cabin sits on its original site beside the Bowen Island Museum and Archives display centre and offices. It was meticulously renovated and restored by the Bowen Island Historians (former name of Bowen Island Museum and Archives) in 1997 and in 2013 it was dedicated to the memory of conservator Eric Lawson, who was principally responsible for the renovation project. 

10) Bridal Veil Falls: The picturesque value of the waterfall was recognized from the first days, around 1914, of Terminal Steamship Company when works foreman Koga and his crew constructed a Japanese-style, three-arched wooden bridge above Bridal Veil Falls. The bridge was connected along the south side of the Killarney Creek outlet at Mannion Bay by a rustic, cedar-railed walkway known as the Bridal Path.  In 1925 a second wooden bridge was built across the pond below the falls and provided the first sturdy and convenient crossing near the falls. From the top of the falls, on the north side there was infrastructure for a hydroelectric generating plant. With the exception of a concrete weir and some concrete footing these structures are now all gone. Today, the falls can be viewed from the historic Alder Trail in Crippen Regional Park, with steps down to salmon spawning habitat.

A site named in a Heritage register is formal recognition of its heritage value to a community.  Such recognition helps with grant applications for restoration.   In addition, the Bowen Island Heritage Commission is building a much larger inventory of sites that may have heritage value and welcomes any and all suggestions.  Heritage week celebrations for 2021 asks the question: Where do you find heritage?  Check out the register and to add your suggestions to the list of possible heritage sites on Bowen visit the CitizenLab site