The Hallmark Heritage Society is about to sign a long-term licence to occupy the Craigflower Schoolhouse in Saanich and the price is right: 20 years for a fee of $1, plus a $1,000 security deposit.
“The papers are going in … and the government has to countersign and then we’re done,” said society president Ken Johnson.
The society, which advocates for the preservation, conservation and restoration of heritage assets, has occupied the two-storey National Historic Site on Admirals Road for the past 18 months. The building was built in 1855 by the Puget’s Sound Agricultural Co., a subsidiary of the Hudson’s Bay Company.
According to the current one-year agreement with the B.C. Ministry of Forests, which is responsible for heritage resources, the Hallmark society will remain responsible for some maintenance, with major maintenance projects shared between the non-profit and the province.
The Hallmark society must also foot the bill for heating, lighting, security and annual fire inspections, reliant on the continuing support of Hallmark membership fees and donations. There are about 180 members who pay a $25 annual fee.
“We will be responsible for maintenance, but I think that it’s more an honour than an obligation to maintain a National Historic Site,” Johnson said.
The province has deposited $31,000 in trust with the society to cover the anticipated costs of upcoming exterior painting of the school house and roof replacement.
Initial estimates indicate the painting will cost more than anticipated, he said, meaning the society is on the lookout for grants and donations.
The Hallmark board rents out the schoolhouse and actively seeks parties of as many as 50 people for fall and Christmas parties and events.