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This page last updated April 14, 2014

© Michael Kluckner


Written/sketched 2001: "Balcomo Lodge," the 1906 home of R.H. Agur on Rutherford Street in the Prairie Valley district of Summerland. It is a 1906 home in the Arts & Crafts style, built for one of Summerland's first councillors and its second reeve (1908-11). According to Robert Hobson, the long-time Kelowna councillor and heritage advocate, the house is "one of the Okanagan's most important architectural statements from the first half of the 20th century." It was built, probably from American plans, by John Robertson and the Nelson Brothers; its style owes a lot to the Arts and Crafts designs of M.H. Baillie-Scott and other architects of the English Arts and Crafts movement. [Hobson & Associates, Okanagan-Similkameen Heritage Resource Inventory, 1986, pp. 23-4] It is rather deteriorated, and sits now in the middle of an intensively worked apple orchard.

I have known the Prairie Valley area for more than 30 years, since I spent a summer in the Okanagan in 1969, on a summer job reading meters and drawing maps for B.C. Hydro. At that time Summerland was serviced by the West Kootenay Power & Light Company, but the more rural areas west and north of the town, including Faulder and Meadow Valley, got their electricity from the public utility, and I roamed all over that beautiful area. Every time I go back I wonder how I could have been alive for so many years but never lived in Summerland.

Prairie Valley is a bowl with dramatic Giant's Head to the east (largely blocking the view of Okanagan Lake), Mount Conkle to the south (along the edge of which the Kettle Valley Railway descended toward the lake), and Rattlesnake and Cartwright mountains to the north and west. The view in the sketch below looks from the west end of Prairie Valley toward Giant's Head and the lake--the grids of fruit trees are not really visible from that distance, with only the rows of poplars and the other large shade trees standing up high enough to cast major shadows. "Balcomo Lodge" sits almost dead-centre in the scene in a clump of trees. Nearby is another significant old house, built for Bank of Montreal vice-president and CPR director Richard Angus, the uncle of Mary Isabella Rogers, whose husband founded the B.C. Sugar Refinery in Vancouver.

It is the settled quality of Summerland, with its many fine homes and the atmosphere of wealthy English and eastern Canadian settlers eager to try their hand as orchardists (a gentleman's occupation, it was believed), that I find intriguing. In addition, of course, it has splendid blue skies, sagebrush-dotted hills and blue-black pine forests.

Summerland was laid out in orchard lots in 1902 by the promoter J.M. Robinson, two years after his first Okanagan venture at Peachland, and several years before he commenced the development at Naramata. The original townsite and commercial area was established along the lake, where the ferry docked, in the area now called Lower Summerland, while the modern town centre was originally West Summerland. The latter has favoured a mock-Tudor style for its buildings in keeping with the style established by such early structures by renowned architect Samuel Maclure as the Bank of Montreal and "Bredon Hill," the home of Major E.E. Hutton. Of the major towns in the Okanagan Valley, Summerland is the only one that hasn't succumbed to "mall-itis." A recent addition to the list of local attractions has been the revival of a portion of the Kettle Valley Railway, running from the lakeshore to the "Prairie Valley Station" in the hills behind town (regrettably, there is nothing left, not even the tracks, of the original KVR station at Faulder, where I used to read the meter; the good news is that the railbed running all the way to Brookmere and beyond is part of the Trans-Canada Trail, as is the KVR line in the Boundary country southeast of the Okanagan).

The view along Dale Meadows Road toward Giant's Head, with an old barn and orchards in the distance.

(The historical information above is from the pamphlet Summerland's Heritage, by the Summerland Museum and Heritage Society and the Heritage Advisory Commission.)

2013: added this oil of Balcomo Lodge to the record of a trip through the Okanagan and Boundary Country.

From Dave aka North Van Grumps, 2014: The publication Beekeepers of British Columbia, from 1911, lists R.H. Agur as a beekeeper. Now I know where Balcomo is!

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Artwork and text ©Michael Kluckner, 2001