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Society optimistic historic Elkington House can finally be preserved

A non-profit society seeking to preserve the historic Elkington House on Maple Bay Road in North Cowichan is optimistic it has turned a corner after years of effort.

“I’ve very positive,” says Paul Gowland of the Oak Park Heritage Preservation Society. “There’s lot of support for restoration.”

Gowland said the society received an email in February from the the Nature Conservancy of Canada — owner of the house — saying it is “open to considering a proposal” for transfer of ownership. “I think they’ve come to the realization there’s no one else out there….” he said.


The house is located on just over one hectare, property that is separate from the conservancy’s Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve.

The society in late February sent the conservancy a draft proposal, which was revised in April, Gowland said.

“The ball’s in their court. We sent them a proposal and they’re currently looking at that.”

The society is expected to hold a meeting soon to elect a new board of directors. “I’d like to see a new board in place before we make too many strategic moves,” Gowland said. “We’re in a state of transition.”

William H. Elkington, an English immigrant, bought the property in 1884 and married Gaynor Simpson in 1890. Their first home burned down in 1894, and was replaced with the current two-storey structure in 1895.

Elkington’s third son, Gerald, lived in the home until his death in 2004 at age 105.

Pauline Jackson served as a caregiver for Gerald in his last five years and would like to see the house become a museum honouring pioneer families in the area.

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“He was a delightful man,” Jackson says of Gerald. “Very quiet, but he talked about his parents and when he was growing up.”

Gerald took aspirin regularly, had a ginger cat, liked to scroll through the TV channels with his remote, used a walker to navigate the main floor of the house, and enjoyed eating kippered herring. “I had to fry those ugly things up,” Jackson says.

Gerald also had a sense of humour. “He would sit there on Halloween and say, ‘You know there’s a ghost underneath the staircase.’ He made it sound really ghoulish.”

Gowland said North Cowichan is not interested in ownership and upkeep of Elkington House, but municipal grants are possible once the society gets control of the property.


The society has a $350,000 grant from the Canadian Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program, but can’t spend the money until the ownership issue is resolved.

“It could be used to restore the house,” Gowland said.

Elkington House is North Cowichan’s only designated heritage house. It appeared in the 2019 movie, Light of My Life, directed by and starring Casey Affleck. The movie is about a father and son navigating the outskirts of society a decade after a pandemic decimated the world's population.

A 2019 consultant’s report funded by the BC Heritage Branch described the Elkington House’s condition as “fair, representing several years of vacancy and more than a decade of deferred maintenance.”

The report warned that the “continued vacancy of the house and general lack of security on the site combine to make Elkington House an attractive target for thieves and vandals, resulting in an increased vulnerability to damage from vandalism and fire.”

( photos and video from May 10, 2024, tour).

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