Having grown up in Comox, I have noticed over the years that the town has lost many heritage buildings.
I was shocked to recently hear that Baybrook, a heritage building that was the original Mack Laing residence, is soon slated for demolition.
There is a lot of history connected with the building.
Laing was a naturalist and writer who collected specimens for the National Museum. He first arrived in Comox in 1922 and camped on the site with Percy Taverner of the National Museum to study Comox birds.
Taverner will be remembered by many for publishing Birds of Western Canada the first comprehensive book on Canadian birds. The book’s illustrations were mainly done by artist Allan Brooks, a winter resident of Comox and friend of Laing’s.
Laing fell in love with the beautiful site where Brooklyn Creek meets the sea and bought five acres, establishing his home and a nut farm. His wife Ethel named the house and property Baybrook after Comox Bay and Brooklyn Creek.
A few years after Ethel died, Laing sold Baybrook to the Stubbs family in 1949 and built Shakesides, which stands at the bottom of Mack Laing Park. Laing stated in his will that he wished his house to become a nature museum.
Since the Stubbs have now sold Baybrook and the Town of Comox has acquired the land and house, it seems to me that Laing’s wish should be carried out in his original house, which is in a perfect location for a walk-in nature centre somewhat like the Goldstream one near Victoria.
No doubt this would take money for developing the idea and possible renovations but if enough organizations and individuals were interested and could volunteer help and hopefully funding, perhaps it would be possible.
A caretaker could be accommodated in the house or one of the cottages on the property. An interpretive nature centre would be ideal for highlighting the estuary and other natural history of the Comox area.
Recommended reading for those interested are the booklet The Pioneer Birdmen of Comox by Elizabeth Brooks (available at the Comox Museum) and the book Hamilton Mack Laing Hunter Naturalist by Richard Mackie.