The historic Baybrook house in Comox — the first home of naturalist Hamilton Mack Laing — was demolished Thursday.
A number of bystanders watched the house come down at 70 Orchard Park Dr. Police assistance was needed to keep a vehicle out of the way and to restrain a protester as equipment arrived.
The Town of Comox had received proposals from the Mack Laing Heritage Society (MLHS) to restore the house to its 1920s iteration. But upon assessment, Mayor Paul Ives said restoration was deemed cost prohibitive.
“It was difficult to get it back to what it was like in Mack Laing’s time,” he said, noting asbestos removal was needed before demolition. “What we’ve done is consistent with the original purchase of that property six, seven years ago.”
Comox council had directed staff to remove the Baybrook/Stubbs house from the property in February.
“We had previously removed three cottages there as well,” Ives said. “The intention is consistent with the purpose of acquiring that property (from Greg Bay), who had acquired it from the Stubbs family.”
Joanne Ross (née Stubbs), whose parents purchased the property in 1949, grew up in Baybrook house.
“It was sad,” Ross said. “It’s always been our family home. (But) things change. I think for us, speaking for the whole family, lots of memories.
“But now, the fact that it’s another generation that’s going to notice a park. It’s going to be a beautiful picnic site.”
Working with the Nature Trust, the Town acquired three parcels worth a little more than $1.2 million.
“We did that to add to the green space. We have essentially doubled the size of Mack Laing Park with this acquisition,” Ives said. “The important piece with this property is that it’s at the mouth of Brooklyn Creek. A fair amount of work’s been done with the Streamkeepers Society and the Town and Pacific Salmon Foundation to enhance and support the salmon habitat there.”
He notes that Baybrook was built in the middle of a First Nations midden (pile of shells).
“First Nations have a lot of history in that site as a summer camp from hundreds, if not thousands of years ago.”
The Mack Laing Society says Heritage BC had offered to assist with restoration costs to the tune of $150,000, and that other sources of funding were available.
“There would have been no cost to Comox taxpayers,” an MLHS statement says.
According to Ives, neither Heritage BC nor Heritage Canada has ever made a specific offer.
“They just said funding might be available,” he said. “We felt that ($150,000) was not a number that would be reliable. We have about $75,000, and that’s from the Mack Laing trust, which could not be applied to Baybrook because it’s not part of the bequest. Baybrook was never included within Mack Laing’s will. That’s not the property he bequested.”
Staff and council will next consider the neighboring Shakesides property, which the Town had rented but is now vacant.
“The condition of that property has deteriorated considerably,” Ives said, noting the possibility of converting a cement foundation into an open air pavilion.
The MLHS will continue to work for the preservation of Shakesides.