On October 17, 2004 nine people met at the Sybil Andrews/Walter Morgan Cottage to discuss ways to save the Cottage which was threatened with destruction in order to build a parking lot. The group decided to form a society to save the landmark home in Willow Point, Campbell River. Everyone agreed to keep the Cottage in the public eye and on their minds. The campaign had begun.
The Sybil Andrews Heritage Society was incorporated on December 17, 2004. President, Fern Seaboyer, approached the City, owners of the property, about the status of the Cottage. The City had an Advisory Commission working on a recommendation for the future of the Cottage. Members of the Society were invited to attend their workshop on January 28. This was the beginning of numerous city meetings the Society would attend. In February the Society was given permission to improve the grounds around Sybil's home. On March 8, 2005, the Advisory Commission announced their recommendation that the City keep the Cottage where it was and restore it. An open house was held on April 24th. to present the Commission's recommendation. Almost all of the 65 people attending favoured the plan to keep the Cottage. In June the City gave the Society permission to paint the outside of the building. City Councillor Morgan Ostler assured the Society that the Cottage would not be destroyed.
In 2006, the City embarked on a Cultural and Heritage Plan which included heritage designation and registering with the provincial and federal governments. While we waited for the Cultural and Heritage Plan to be completed, we concentrated on public awareness and eventually fundraising. On April 19th, Sybil's birth date, the Society held the first Sybil Andrews Tea. Friends and former students of Sybil's were contacted and invited to attend. The Tea was very successful and many of the attendees had stories to tell about Sybil and Walter. The Society involved the Cottage in the Art Gallery's Annual Garden Tour in June to display the roses and perennials in the improved garden. Sybil's home was included in the Communities in Bloom judges' tour. Lunch was served at the Cottage and some members of the Society were available to answers question about Sybil, Walter, and their home. The Society produced their first small desk calendar that featured artists who paint at the Cottage. The calendar sale was a successful fundraising plan and a new calendar is produced each year.
Several publications, in 2007, showed that Sybil's works were selling for much higher prices. Gary Ratushniak, a London, England based artist and former student of Sybil's, reported that some of her work had reached six figures. A restructuring of the City's Parks and Recreation gave culture and heritage a higher profile. On April 19th at the Annual Sybil Andrews' Tea, Mayor Roger McDonnell read a proclamation stating the day will now be known as Sybil Andrews Day in Campbell River. The Society formed a partnership with Ken Blackburn and Heather Hughson of the Campbell River Community Arts Council to promote Sybil Andrews and her home. Ken gave presentations to several groups around the city. The Arts Council is located in the Cottage and rents the space to several groups of which most are arts related. Sybil taught recorder lessons in her home and now Rodrigo Figueroa teaches guitar. In May the Commonwealth Historic Resources Management consultants arrived from Vancouver to present their report to the City. This report was based on their earlier interviews of many cultural groups and individuals. They stated that heritage designations for appropriate sites should be a high priority for the City. Another step in the Society's long journey to save the Cottage happened in August. The City Council adopted the Cultural and Heritage Plan. In December Lynn Wark, acting Supervisor of Parks, announced they would be taking a budget request to upgrade the Cottage and parking in 2008.
In February the City applied for a Coast Sustainability Grant. Three members of the Executive attended a meeting with the Parks Committee. The City committed to $75,000 to be used to provide the Cottage with a new roof. The Sybil Andrews/Walter Morgan Property would be the first name on the newly approved Heritage Register for Campbell River. Ken Blackburn gave the Rotary Club a presentation about the Sybil Andrews/Walter Morgan Property. Janet Koch, a Rotary member, had arranged for Ken to speak at their lunch meeting. Some Rotary members were interested in restore Walter's boathouse. Ian Baikie, from the Rotarians, examined the boathouse. He felt it was in poor shape and restoration work needed to start in the summer. A second Native Plant Workshop with Pat Johnson was held at the Cottage. Sybil Andrews Day was celebrated in two locations. The afternoon began at the Museum with debut of the Arts Council video about Sybil Andrews. The video included many friends and former students speaking about their memories of Sybil. After the viewing of the video, people were invited to the Cottage for refreshments. On June 28th, David O'Laney from the Commonwealth Historic Resources Management consulting firm came to Campbell River to conduct interviews to prepare a "Statement of Significance". This would tell him how significance the property was for heritage status. Several Society members attended a workshop presented by the Heritage Branch of Ministry of Tourism, Sports, and the Arts. We were told that the City could do its own heritage registry at any time. Michelle Sirett (Parks Manager) presented her report on the Heritage Register to Council. They voted to create a register – and then they voted to make the Sybil Andrews/Walter Morgan Property the first entry. Councillors Adams and Ostler praised the Society and the Parks staff for successfully lobbying to save the Cottage.
2009 found the Society still on the long protocol of the process needed to start the restoration. The highlight of the Fourth Annual Sybil Andrews Day was the three DVD of art created by Sybil's students. At a meeting with the heritage consultants their architect reported that both buildings were redeemable. The consultants complimented the Society on our indicative and perseverance in saving the Cottage and Walter's boatshed. On the advice of the architect, Jonathan Yardley, large tarps were spread over the roof of the shed. This was the first step in seeing some physical action towards the restoration. On August 24th the Sybil Andrews Cottage and Property Conservation and Feasibility Plan went to Council. It consisted of 90 pages. Council passed it unanimously. The restoration will be completed in three phases: new foundation and site draining; new roof and reconditioning of the Cottage doors and windows; the boathouse and landscaping. The estimated cost was daunting and the importance of writing grants was obvious. October 8th the Sybil Andrews Heritage Society, Willow Point Lions, Campbell River Community Arts Council, and City Parks met to discuss funding issues. The group questioned some cost estimates obtained from a qualifier hired by the heritage consultants. Perhaps local costs would be more realistic and the Executive of the Society offered to investigate local costs for reroofing the Cottage.
2010 found the Society, lead by Mary Teer, planning several fundraising ideas. The Society decided to have a jumble sale, craft sale, and to sell Cottage Tea Towels. The towels are flour sacking and blue outline of the Cottage is printed on them. Mary arranged for fellow artists to donate pieces of their art to the Society. On January 17th Lynn Wark outlined the next steps for the restoration. The heritage architect needed to design the foundation for the Cottage and then it had to go out to tender for three estimates. These estimates would be used for grants. The grants need matching funding and contingency funds as well. The City requires contingency funds. The Society's Executive was on a steep learning curve about funding projects. At the Rotary's January meeting, Ian Baikie made a presentation with a cost analysis and supplying their own labour to work on the roof and the southwest wall of the boatshed. The Rotary Committee would make a decision about the proposed project in the next month. The Heritage Legacy Fund's deadline was April 16th. The Society worked on the heritage section and the City worked on the cost estimates, time schedule, matching funds, etc. We asked for the top amount $25,000. The City approved $50,000 for the construction drawings for the drawings for the foundation and other technical matters. Sybil Andrews Day 2010 was very successful. Members of the Rotary attended to check out Walter's shed because they had decided it was a good project for them. Pictures of Walter and his hand-made boats were obtained from the Museum for the occasion. May 27th was a banner day when we found out the Heritage Legacy Fund had awarded us the full $25,000. The Society had maintained contact with this heritage group for many years and they had encouraged us to apply for funding several times. The fact that the City owned the Cottage always deterred us before.
And that is the story so far.