Stuart Stark, a local historian, says he is pleased the City of Colwood is moving to grant the Colwood Dairy and Cheese House heritage designation. (Black Press Media file photo)

Historic Colwood Dairy and Cheese House one step closer to heritage designation

Building is the oldest standing structure on the West Shore

The third-oldest building in the Capital Regional District, the Colwood Dairy and Cheese House, is one step closer to receiving heritage designation.

A bylaw to give the building heritage designation received a third reading from Colwood Council on Monday, following a public hearing where residents spoke in favour.

Ken Johnson, president of the Hallmark Heritage Society, said “members of the society are very pleased that Colwood has decided to take this step.”

Other residents were pleased with the decision but most showed concern for plans to move the building closer to Goldstream Avenue.

The Colwood Dairy and Cheese House is currently located behind a single-family home on Goldstream Avenue across from the Royal Colwood Golf Course. It is the only remaining building from Capt. Edward E. Langford’s farmstead. It was constructed as part of the Esquimalt Farm in 1852 but Capt. Langford named his home and his farm the Colwood Farm. It was one of four Hudson’s Bay Company farms in the area and produced dairy products like milk, cheese and butter for Fort Victoria.

A developer has plans to build condominiums on the 400-block of Goldstream Avenue, but agreed to give Colwood ownership of the historic dairy in 2011, as well as move the building closer to the road for public access while condos are built on other parts of the property. The area is zoned for buildings with a maximum height of eight storeys.

Stuart Stark, who is no longer connected with the developer, was brought on by the developer as a heritage consultant in 2012 to write a statement of significance about the building.

Stark said the Colwood property had two wells, two brick ovens, cow sheds, a brick kiln, horse stables and other buildings, according to an 1854 letter from Capt. Langford. The only remaining building is the dairy.

According to Stark, Colwood Corners was the name given to the gateway into the farm and was a place where travellers from Sooke would often stop.

“It was the only thing for miles around,” Stark said.

By the time Stark visited the building in 2012, it had already been converted into a workshop by a previous owner with concrete poured over the original brick floor. Stark, working with a team of volunteer archaeologists, said they ended up chipping off the concrete to reveal the intact brick floor – with bricks made on the farm itself – as well as a bucket which would have been part of the dairy’s original drainage and cooling system.

“It is the first example in B.C. of an industrial agriculture cooling system,” Stark said. “It’s extremely primitive but it’s there.”

Stark said he believes granting the building heritage designation is “a huge move forward” for the Colwood because it shows the beginnings of the city. However, he voiced concern about how it would be moved, given the fact that the masonry walls are u-shaped and not reinforced and that the floor is made out of bricks set in sand.

Moving the building would involve a lot of digging and finding a way to move it as one whole piece, something Stark said could become very costly.

However, he said it would be “wonderful” to see the building preserved and restored and is pleased at the move to give it heritage designation.

“As people have said, if you forget where you’ve come from you don’t know where you’re going,” Stark said.

shalu.mehta@blackpress.ca

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