First fire, then renovations and now roadwork are preventing the Craigflower Manor from being able to open to the public, prompting its stewards to take a hard look at alternative revenue streams.
With renovations reulting from a fire 2009 nearing completion, the View Royal manor was slated for reopening this summer. Now plans to replace the Craigflower Bridge beginning in June means access to the site will be cut off and the manor will have to wait yet another season to reopen its doors.
With the delay, along with the prospect of new provincial funding, The Land Conservancy (TLC), which has operated the site since 2003, is focusing on coming up with new ways to make money.
Combined, both the manor and the Craigflower Schoolhouse, which is across the bridge in Saanich, cost about $150,000 per year to run when in full operation. When open, the sites make less then a third of that. Subsidies from the provincial government, which still owns the sites, makes up the difference.
“We would like not to have to be going back to the province with our hand out all the time,” said TLC deputy executive director Ian Fawcett. “We took on responsibility and we intend to try to find a way to make it sustainable.”
The provincial government has allocated $21 million over three years to help make historic sites in the province more sustainable to operate. Fawcett doesn’t yet know how much money that will result in for Craigflower Manor but it could potentially go toward a project for the site.
There is no desire to modify the buildings themselves or change the intention of the site, but thought is being put into what can be added to the site to bring in more revenue.
The conservancy wants to hear from the public for ideas on what to do. Fawcett said that they have a few ideas, such as food vending or a produce stand, in keeping with the farming history of the site, but ultimately they want to do what the community feels is appropriate.
“Now’s the time for us to essentially bear down and figure out exactly what to do with it and how to make it work,” Fawcett said. “We’re not even contemplaing worst case scenarios because we just don’t think in that way. We’re just thinking about what can we do.”
Any idea would likely involve building a new structure on the 1853 farming settlement. Fawcett said that they could also use more administrative and storage space, so a new building might be good all round.
To carry out a project like that the conservancy would most likely need money from the government. Fawcett said he has had one initial meeting with the province but the intiative is in too early a stage to talk about specific funding.
Renovations on the site are nearing completion. The fire, which started underneath the staircase and is believed to have been caused by a space heater, resulted in significant smoke and heat damage, and destroyed much of the staircase area.
The stairs have been rebuilt and incorporate some of the old with the new. Some of the charred balusters, for instance, have been reused, while some are new. Melted plexiglass had to be peeled off a section of wall displaying original wallpaper. As reminders of the fire, one patch of smoke damaged wallpaper and a candle keeled over from the heat have been left.
Some painting remains to be finished and the manor’s textiles need to be cleaned.
Provincial funding and some money from the conservancy have paid for the renovations, which cost about $240,000.
Closure is not an option at this point, Fawcett said. Even if the conservancy has to continue to rely on subsidies it will keep the site open, even though that’s not the ideal situation.
“It’s a really fundamental underpining of how we see our community Facett said. “It’s been looked after very, very well over the years and we intend to continue that. … As a building and as an icon of the community it’s very important.”