New homes on historic property now selling

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

Qualicum mansion’s grounds location of 16 villas

Marty Hope

The Brown property is a pointer to those legends that the Strait of Georgia generated postcontact, that Hollywood liked to holiday here and that English officers and gentlemen liked to reside here. The builder of the mansion was a general officer at the end of the First World War. Errol Flynn, Spencer Tracy and Bing Crosby may have stayed under its roof — or not.

Hollywood legends Errol Flynn, Spencer Tracy and Bing Crosby are said to have stayed there.

John Wayne is also said to have been a visitor when he sailed his yacht, The Wild Goose, up the Strait of Georgia.

Decades ago, a Vancouver Island mansion constructed in Qualicum Beach was the destination for some high-falootin‘ visitors. It was built by Brig.-Gen. Noel Money, an avid salmon fisherman who was not averse to throwing some good parties.

After he died in 1939, the property was sold to Major James Lowery, a founder of Home Oil Co. He later sold the property to R.A. (Bobby) Brown, who took over ownership of Home Oil in the early 1950s.

Today, the Qualicum Beach property is called Crown Mansion.

It is the newest development by Crown Isle Management Team, which operates the Crown Isle golf/residential community up the highway in Courtenay.

The mansion has been restored and is now a boutique hotel with six bedrooms on the upper floor. As well, 16 condominiums have been added to the property.

With deep roots in this region of the island, the Crown Isle group decided to purchase the property to preserve it, says director of real estate Jason Andrew.

“Having heard the history of the Brown property, they were fearful of a developer coming in, removing the existing home, carving up the property and selling it off as individual lots, rather than carrying on the history and ambience of the property,” he says.

The development’s colourful history began nearly a century ago in 1913 when Money, an officer in the British army, was on the island for a fishing trip. The outbreak of the First World War called Money back to his regiment and the property was converted to a convalescent home for wounded officers.

At some point, property adjoining the home was turned into a golf course. When the war was over, Money returned to become manager of a real estate company involved in running the golf course.

Money died in 1939 and the property was purchased by Lowery, a neighbour.

Brown bought it in 1952, and when he died 20 years later, his executors sold the golf course to the town of Qualicum Beach for $1 million. The house and grounds were sold in 2001 to Ron Coulson, one of the principals in Crown Isle.

The Crown Mansion has since been fully renovated and offers a mix of the “history of yesterday with the elegant comforts of today,” says Andrew.

Stepping from the port-cochere entrance into the mansion hotel is like stepping back into history.

Visitors enjoy the timeless elegance of a sweeping staircase and the brilliance of crystal chandeliers.

Upstairs are six bedrooms that contain Colonial-style four-poster beds, gas fireplaces and a living area with either ocean or garden views.

Adjacent to the mansion are 16 villas measuring between 1,030 and 1,198 square feet, each finished with granite countertops, lacquered maple cabinets and hickory flooring.

There are also crown mouldings, two gas fireplaces with granite hearths, a jetted tub, stacking washer and dryer, private verandas and a fully-equipped kitchen.

Full ownership prices of available villas — four have been sold — run from $379,900 to $469,900. Andrew says there is a feeling of optimism among people looking at real estate on the island.

“As with most areas, the real estate market on Vancouver Island was not what it could have been, but we are seeing a renewed interest for both residential and investment opportunities at the mansion and up in the Comox Valley at Crown Isle,” he says.

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