Bowen Island's remarkable Endswell property for sale for first time in almost 60 years

A new listing on Bowen Island is causing a stir for its oceanfront land of 137 acres and its bucolic, working farm. It is the first time in nearly 60 years that the property, known as Endswell, has been for sale.

It has a remarkable history, which includes a rickety cabin built in the late 1890s, Canadian author Ethel Wilson, the University of B.C. medical faculty, and the memories of a Vancouver family.

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Isaac Dolby began building the cabin years before the Bowen Island Copper Company set up its mine. He used shake-covered logs and added a stone fireplace. When a modern house was added to the property nearly a century later, the living room was built so it is the Dolby Cabin, keeping the sway in its old roof, the original logs and fireplace.

But for years before that, it was just the Dolby Cabin in the middle of 100-plus acres of forest along a rocky shoreline that was owned by R.E. McKechnie, a doctor and UBC’s second chancellor.

Around 1941, he sold the property to another prominent doctor, Wallace Wilson, and his wife, writer Ethel Wilson, who wrote many of her essays and short stories there.

In Vancouver, the Wilsons lived in the West End, where Ethel “encouraged upcoming writers Margaret Laurence and Alice Munro,” according to a literary landmark plaque. She set her stories in B.C., and the province’s top fiction award is named after her.

Wallace was known as a “friend and counsellor to the aged and poor of Vancouver,” according to a 2008 B.C. Medical Journal article. It noted that when B.C. doctors debated whether to leave the Canadian Medical Association and join a northwest one that was mainly American, Wallace was among a few in favour of staying with Canadian medicine.

In 1955, the Wilsons gave their summer property on Bowen to UBC so that faculty could use it as a retreat. They included a clause that if UBC ever wanted to sell it, first right of refusal had to go to Buck McIntosh.

McIntosh found out the Wilsons, who were family friends, had given the property to UBC only after the fact, but in time for them to add a first refusal clause to the deal.

“They said, ‘Oh Buck, we had no idea you loved it that much,” said Fiona Beaty, McIntosh’s daughter.

About 10 years later, McIntosh got a call from UBC. Part of the proceeds from UBC’s sale to McIntosh went to building the Wilson Listening Room at UBC’s main library.

By then, McIntosh had taken a sabbatical from his law firm to “travel around Europe in a sports car going to classical music festivals.” Along the way, he met and married Nicolette Cross, an art student from London.

The couple settled in Vancouver and spent weekends and holidays at Endswell with their three children, including Beaty.

“For my brother and sister and myself, it was endless summers as free-range children,” she said.

“Swimming in the ocean with our Newfoundland dogs and adventures on naughty ponies and the tractor named Oliver that was so much a part of every endeavour.

“And sailing and chickens and eggs and sheep and pigs and singalongs in the scullery as we did the dishes after dinner.”

Until the early 1970s, the family always called the property simply “Bowen,” Beaty said.

“But when [my parents] really embarked on the farming enterprise, the egg marketing board said we needed to have a name for our licence.

“So, all of a sudden, in the space of a weekend, I remember my parents deliberating, just kicking names around.

“And my father suddenly said [the name of the Shakespeare play] All’s Well That Ends Well, and it became Endswell Farm.”

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