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.
In the summer of 2010 we received the news that the Coast Sustainability Trust had approved $150,000 for the cottage restoration. The project has now gone to Jason Hartley, the Capital Works Manager for the city. Tenders went out to contractors for the restoration to begin in the new year.
2011---The year for celebration! Starting in January, the contractor bid went to 2Hills Restoration in Campbell River. The old deck and water pipes were removed and the rose hedge, lilac and other plants taken away for replanting later.
By February 11, the cottage was about 7 feet into the air and on huge blocks in order to replace the foundation. The old one had been built in 5 different parts. Concrete was poured for the foundation base and walls. By March 8, the cottage was lowered onto its new foundation. A new wheelchair ramp and retaining wall were built and a new cedar shingle roof was begun.
In April, cement was poured for a new wheelchair sidewalk, new steps, designed like the originals, were built on the beach side, a door for fire safety was cut from the north end of the cottage, new cedar wood eavestroughs, drain pipes, and window boxes were added. Fresh gravel in the driveway, replanted shrubs, exterior lighting installed, grass planted and touch-up painting made the exterior look complete.
On Sybil Andrews Day although we could not celebrate IN the cottage yet, the celebration was held in the temporary Arts Council space next door. A cake, refreshments, display boards, photos and speeches and many thank you's were the order of the day!
During May, as we had some funds left, the old hardwood floors inside the cottage were restored and new linoleum installed in the bathroom, sunroom and entry porch. The bathroom tub and sink were reglazed, finishing trim on doors and windows put up and painted. Outside, the new garden area was replanted by the local Garden Club. And blue chip gravel was spread on the pathway.
In June, the Campbell River Rotary Club was now able to replace the much needed roof on Walter Morgan's studio. The Arts Council offices were moved back to the restored cottage. This project was a great learning experience for all of us, even the city staff. No building had been restored as a heritage building in Campbell River before. The Sybil Andrews Walter Morgan Property is the first on our new Heritage Register.
By July the garden was in bloom and window boxes overflowing. Campbell River was entered in the Communities in Bloom tour at the National level. We received high marks for the Heritage component which was part of the city's award for our population size.
October 2011 brought a contact from the Blue Plaque Society in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, where Sybil Andrews was born. They wanted to put a plaque on the Bank of Scotland building there, stating that she had been born in the apartment upstairs. Our society has paid to have the plaque installed.
During the years 2012 to 2014, the Society has continued with the other 3 goals of our Constitution. With the Arts Council, each year we host the Sybil Andrews Day celebration in the cottage. We have helped with costs for added improvements such as tourist brochures and a wall size interpretive panel telling about Sybil Andrews' history, right up to the cottage renovations. We had a small kitchen table and bench made in the design of one Walter made. We keep the window boxes in bloom all summer, and sometimes talk to tourists or visitors who come in. We sell Sybil Andrews art cards, and our yearly calendar continues to keep her name in the public eye.
December 2014 marks 10 years since the Society was incorporated.
2015 for us, is the beginning of the other half of the restoration project on the Sybil Andrews Walter Morgan Property. The Society, again in partnership with the city, would like to restore the Walter Morgan Studio, the old boatshed where Sybil's husband built many beautiful boats, and crafted many more inlaid wooden bowls and candle sticks. He also made most of their furniture and put additions onto their tiny cottage. His studio should be made useful to the community as space for large art projects, workshops, programs and even storage for the Arts Council.
In February, we approached our new Mayor Andy Adams to review what may take place. The building has not been forgotten, but will be brought to council again this year.