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Historic Qualicum Beach lodge a finalist in national heritage contest

St. Andrews Lodge — which had a number of cottages — was a destination for families for about 80 years
St. Andrews Lodge, which for many years was operated by the Little family, is one of 12 finalists in Canada’s Next Great Save competition. COURTESY ROBERT BOATES

A heritage lodge in Qualicum Beach that began hosting tourists just before the Second World War is one of 12 finalists in Canada’s Next Great Save competition, one of only two entries from B.C.

Staged annually by the National Trust for Canada, the competition offers the entry with the most votes a grand prize of $50,000 to help save and restore a heritage building. The other B.C. entry is Mon Keang School, billed as Vancouver Chinatown’s oldest surviving Chinese school.

Members of the public can vote once a day online until the competition closes at 4 p.m on May 6. As of Monday, the frontrunner was the LaSalle Theatre in Kirkland Lake, Ont.

Last year, the Duncan Train Station won $50,000 through the national competition.

Opened in 1938 on a waterside property at the north end of Qualicum Beach, St. Andrews Lodge — which had a number of cottages — was a destination for families for about 80 years. The cottages were later demolished because of the cost of oil heating, according to Qualicum Beach Mayor Teunis Westbroek.

For many years, the lodge was operated by the Little family, a prominent Scottish-Canadian settler family in Qualicum Beach.

Jay Smith, president of the St. Andrews Historical and Cultural Society, said the Littles were Qualicum Beach pioneers in terms of laying the foundations for the primary industry in town: tourism. “By restoring the lodge, we’ll actually be restoring part of our history.”

During the region’s early tourism days, Qualicum Beach attracted celebrities including John Wayne, Bing Crosby and Ava Gardner.

A heritage significance report from engineering firm John Dam & Associates notes the lodge was a popular stopping point for members of the armed forces during the Second World War. Members “would often outnumber the beds and sleep on the couches, cots, and floor,” the report said.

While the number of Hollywood visitors may have dwindled over the years, tourism spending in Parksville and Qualicum amounted to nearly $233 million in 2021, according to an estimate from the Parksville Qualicum Beach Tourism Association.

The legacy of Sam Little, the lodge’s architect and first proprietor, lives on in Qualicum Beach. He designed the town crest, the community hall, many early settler dwellings and its baptist church — with the latter becoming the template for small churches all over Canada, Smith said.

His daughter, Elizabeth Little, kept the lodge going into the second generation and helped establish the Qualicum Beach museum, was a lifelong member of the local chamber of commerce, and proposed the municipality’s first tree-protection bylaw, Smith said. “She was a very publicly visible woman that was engaged in so many causes.”

Elizabeth Little was honoured as Qualicum Beach’s first Freeman of the town in 1998. When she died in 2011, the town’s flags flew at half-mast.

St. Andrews Lodge and its lands were sold by the family to the town for $3.4 million in 2018 and the property was turned into a waterfront park in 2021, but not before going through a great save of its own.

In 2020, Qualicum Beach council voted to relocate or demolish the building, but changed course after supporters rallied to oppose the plan. The lodge is now under the care of the St. Andrews Historical and Cultural Society, which leases it from the town.

The society received a $211,000 federal grant this year intended for seismic upgrades and the restoration of Elizabeth Little’s lodge office.

But Smith said much more remains to be done — including installing electricity, plumbing, a heating system, and accessibility upgrades — before the lodge can flourish as a public space.

Artists have expressed interest in exhibiting in the building, and nearby schoolchildren could use it as an educational space, he said.

The lodge could be an opportunity to tell the less “bright and shiny” parts of history, Smith said. “[Qualicum] Chief Michael Recalma, has told us that this is a very, very significant place for the local history of the local people.”

Last year, the lodge grounds were renamed Saahtlam Park, a name given by the Qualicum First Nation that refers to “the green at the mouth of the river.”

The society has set aside funds for English-pentl’ach signage in the park, Smith said.

The pentl’ach language is currently being reconstructed by the Qualicum Nation after the last native speaker of the language died 80 years ago. “If this all comes to fruition, it’ll be the first public visibility of the pentl’ach language,” he said.

In the meantime, Smith has been closely studying last year’s Next Great Save competition in hopes of a repeat win for Vancouver Island. Last year, a team of about 30 Cowichan Valley-area volunteers and five or six core organizers pulled in 76,521 votes for the win for Duncan Train Station, attracting 20,000 more votes than the second-place entry, the La Vielle Maison in Meteghan, N.S.

Penny Meyer, an educator at the Cowichan Valley Museum, located inside the train station, said anyone who wants to win Canada’s Next Great Save has to be prepared to hit the pavement. “Every time we did something like go to the farmer’s market, our numbers would go up,” she said.

Another place to drum up support is through the many museum and historical societies on Vancouver Island and in B.C., she said. “If you’re [stumping] for a heritage project, it’s a good idea to talk to people who are interested in heritage stuff,” Meyer said.

Smith, for his part, has been reaching out to Scottish associations throughout Canada, asking them to help publicize the contest. He’s also planning to reach out to Scottish government representatives in Canada to try and tap into the 5.4-million-strong voter pool in Scotland.

Votes can only be cast once a day, but can be made from anywhere in the world.

Meyer remembers one friend in Thailand who faithfully cast a vote every day last year during the contest.

Westbroek said he’s also voting every day, along with his wife and daughter.

“As a community, this is what Qualicum Beach is all about — to save these buildings, not through a lot of staff time or anything like that, but [through] volunteers.”

To cast your vote for St. Andrews Lodge, visit

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