With all the discussions today on planned developments, this photo shows a barn that was a downtown Sooke landmark from 1895 up through the 1950s and demonstrates the contrast in cultures from one century to the next.
The Muir barn, built by Robert Muir and his sons, stood between Caldwell and Sheilds roads, remaining in use until 1958 when it burned to the ground.
Robert Muir was one of the sons of John Muir and Ann Miller Muir who arrived in the new colony of Vancouver’s Island from Ayrshire, Scotland, in 1849.
With the pioneering Muir parents were their four sons and a daughter; they were to become one of the foremost immigrant families and industry leaders on the Island in the early years.
After a brief stint indentured with the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Rupert, the Muirs took up land in Sooke in 1851 and bought Capt. Walter Colquhoun Grant’s holdings, when he left the settlement in 1853.
The eldest Muir son, Andrew, became Victoria sheriff, while the younger sons John, Robert and Michael each developed their own fine Sooke homes in 1884 after they married.
Robert Muir built the two-storied home of Springside for his wife Christina Stephen and their children, building this barn closer to the main road (now Highway 14). In this 1928 photo, the Springside mansion had been dismantled, but the barn, owned by his sons at the time, remained in use.
In time, the Muirs no longer used the barn fields, and they became hayfields for Ernie Welsh. Later still, Geoff Vantreight of Saanich used the fields for the production of daffodil and tulip bulbs.
The decades-long usefulness of the Muir barn came to an abrupt end when one night in 1958, it burst into flames. The guys in the Sooke Volunteer Fire Department and their wives celebrated the completion of their brand new fire hall on Sooke Road (across from today’s Sooke Home Hardware) with a dance in the upstairs of the fire hall when it happened.
We’ve heard that apparently someone was miffed that they hadn’t been able to get into the dance and decided that they’d cut short the evening’s festivities for the firemen as well.
Historian Elida Peers writes for the Sooke Region Museum.