Willow Point Hall secures spot on Heritage Register

It’s been nearly a year and a half but Tom McKenzie will finally see his beloved Willow Point Lions Hall written into the heritage books

It’s been nearly a year and a half but Tom McKenzie will finally see his beloved Willow Point Lions Hall written into the city’s heritage books.

At council’s Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday afternoon, councillors voted by a 3-2 margin to put the storied hall on the Community Heritage Register, making it the second property after the Sybil Andrews Cottage to make the cut.

Councillors Larry Samson, Claire Moglove and Mayor Walter Jakeway voted in favour of giving the hall heritage status while councillors Andy Adams and Ron Kerr were opposed to the motion, which gives the hall formal recognition of its heritage values.

Councillors Ryan Mennie and Mary Storry were not in attendance at the meeting.

Samson said he made the motion because the hall is an important piece of Campbell River’s story.

“It was a vital part of the Willow Point history,” he said.

“Back in the 40s and 50s it was the centre of activity.”

Samson said the facility, which today hosts several community functions and costs just $20 per hour to rent out, is the city’s lone remaining original hall.

Others, including the old Community Centre, have all long since been torn down.

Samson said the hall is unique in that the original wood flooring (still intact) is made of plywood set on edge.

McKenzie, who has been spearheading a campaign to get heritage status for the Willow Point Hall since the spring of 2011, agrees the hall is a special place.

He had been contemplating getting the wheels in motion to make the hall a heritage site for the past 10 years, but went public with the idea in May 2011 when he asked the community to come forward with its stories, photos, and memories of the old hall.

The end result was a Statement of Significance researched and compiled by Michele Sirett, the city’s recreation and culture supervisor.

According to Sirett, the hall takes people back to a simpler time.

“The building recalls the simple building traditions, construction materials and open space floor design that characterized this building type,” Sirett wrote in the Statement of Significance.

“The building was built by community volunteers and has been owned and operated by community organizations since its construction.”

The hall was purchased by the Willow Point Lions Club in 1986 and since that time has been the venue of choice for weddings, scouts, brownies, political gatherings, church services, dances, and anniversaries.

Samson himself recalls his connection to the hall.

“My dad and my uncle had a gas station across the street that opened up in the early 1980s,” Samson said.

“I have a long history with Willow Point, my family has a long history with Willow Point. The Willow Point Hall was part of it. We would have Christmas parties at the Willow Point Hall; it was very widely used for a number of functions.”

Samson said adding the hall to the heritage register will create a kind of heritage block which includes nearby Sybil Andrews Cottage and Walter Morgan studio, a place Samson recalls going for tea when he was young.

The heritage status will also allow McKenzie and the Lions to apply for federal and provincial heritage grants to help maintain the hall.

The hall needs a new foundation, a new roof, and upgrades to the kitchen and bathrooms.

The Lions also want to preserve the hall and keep it as close to what it was when it opened its doors in 1940.

“We want to take it back to what it was originally,” McKenzie said.

“We want to have cedar siding and a dark brown roof so it looks like shingles.”