25-28 April 2012
The 34th annual gathering of the Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation was an overwhelming success. In the context of Victoria, British Columbia, the participants engaged in dialogues about the preservation of historic landscapes and the conservation of cultural landscapes of significance. Canada’s powerful West Coast landscape provided the awe-inspiring backdrop.
Waiting at the Empress
The conference commenced Wednesday evening at the 104-year old Fairmont Empress Hotel, a designated National Historic Site of Canada, with our traditional if ‘modified’ round table. We chose a new option for this introductory session, dividing into smaller groups each chaired by a Board member who facilitated introductions in each group and subsequently to the rest of the participants.
Alastair Kerr, former manager of Heritage Programs for the Province of British Columbia, kicked off the conference with a perfect mix of knowledge and passion in a rousing introduction entitled, “A Perfect Eden: Cultural Landscapes in Greater Victoria.” Likening himself to “a poacher being invited to a meeting of game wardens,” Alastair led us on a magnificent journey which highlighted the Salish First Nations peoples, Sir James Douglas and Fort Victoria, and the Pacific Rim. His talk culminated in a summary of three favourite landscapes: Abkhazi Garden (which we would later visit), Mount Newton Valley, and East Sooke Regional Park. This “perfect Eden … dropped from the clouds” remains today a brilliant juxtaposition of land/mountains, water and cultures. Papers and works-in-progress were presented throughout the course of the morning. Click here for the abstracts.
Abkhazi Gardens, the ‘garden that love built’ was the destination for our lunch and tour with an introduction provided by Deborah Hudson of The Land Conservancy (TLC) of British Columbia.
Across town at the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association Cemetery at Harling Point (Chinese Cemetery at Harling Point NHSC) simple markers and an altar are found among wildflowers in an ocean-front landscape arranged according to the ancient concept of feng shui. John Adams provided the stimulating commentary.
Closing off the touring portion of the day (tight timelines being what they were) was Beacon Hill Park. Dr. Brenda Beckwith, who had regaled the delegates earlier in the morning with an informative overview of Camas meadow ecosystems (indigenous supermarket/soul food at its finest) and meadow making 101, continued to effuse on site!
The afternoon closed with a tour of the Emily Carr exhibit, “On the Edge of Nowhere,” at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria where we viewed, among other works, the Big Eagle, Skidegate, which had served as the conference loadstone. A drive-by of Carr’s childhood home en route back to the hotel concluded the tour.
Following the papers and prior to a quick promo for Virginia in 2013 (Carrie Gregory, Dan Nadenicek) and our afternoon excursion, Susan Hitchcock paid a moving tribute to our colleague and friend Jim Cothran who left us too soon. He will be remembered for all of his wonderful works.
The lunch hour found us on a bus headed northward (in one of the few periods of rain) towards the Cowichan Valley. This rural landscape boasts a number of interesting sites.
The first stop was the Kinsol wooden trestle bridge, a phenomenal feat of engineering that happily, following appropriate rehabilitation efforts, still stands today. We were fortunate to learn the story from Graham Gidden and Gord MacDonald (click here for details).
Keating Farm Estate, another TLC property, where Deborah Hudson and Nicole Haddad provided the background. This eclectic ‘estate’ originated in the 1870s, and in many ways exemplifies the more recent history of the valley (click here for details).
The much older story of the valley and the First Nations people therein was communicated by Arvid Charlie of the Cowichan Tribes (First Nation) and his nephew Tim Kulchyski at Stone Church, a coastal landscape, sacred to the Cowichan people from when the tribe’s name derives. Mr. Charlie’s words will echo for some time to come.
Our final morning of thought-provoking papers concluded with a “Military History and the Cultural Landscape of Esquimalt” presented by Richard Linzey. Richard’s presentation neatly ‘book-ended’ the morning sessions and provided an apt introduction to what we would see first-hand in the afternoon.At Craigflower Manor, a provincially-owned ‘remnant’ historic landscape, we were welcomed by Ken Pedlow
Paul Allison provided the overview at the Edwardian-era Hatley Park (now Royal Roads University) west of the city. At 565 acres, it is one of Canada’s most diverse national historic sites. The coastal landscape includes old growth forest, peaceful nature trails, lush heritage gardens, a rare eco-system and bird sanctuary, a ‘castle’ and a spectacular view of the Olympic Mountains. In particular, Paul led the group through the stunning Japanese Garden, an area of study in which he has particular expertise.
The afternoon was capped off by a tour of Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse NHSC, under the jurisdiction of Parks Canada. Commentary and tours were provided by Dave King and Bram Dams.
The final banquet of the 2012 conference was held in the West Coast garden setting at the University Club of Victoria. A good number of the delegates were treated to a quick tour of the Halprin landscape by Wendy Shearer. And, on return to the hotel, a number of exhausted delegates concluded the proceedings with a visit to the Bengal Lounge, to cap off a wonderful few days.
Special thanks are extended to all of those who presented papers, works-in-progress and posters throughout the duration of the conference (click here for AHLP Presentations 2012). And a special thanks to Ian Firth, Susan Hitchcock and Wendy Shearer for so ably ensuring that the papers selected were of the highest quality possible (and on theme)! It is worth acknowledging Cheryl Miller for assiduously keeping speakers to their allotted timeslots!It is also important to extend a particular note of appreciation to our 2012 student scholarship winners: Alexandria Donati, Dinah Gewalt, and Betsy Jacobson (click here for details). Thanks to both Anne Hoover and Achim Jankowski for ensuring the success of this aspect of the conference.
The Fairmont Empress Hotel, Province of B.C. Heritage Branch (Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations) and The Land Conservancy (TLC) of B.C.; the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria; Royal Roads University; Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse NHSC (Parks Canada); and, the University Club of Victoria. And we would be remiss if we did not mention Wilson’s Transportation Ltd. who ensured that we got to our destinations on time each day!
As well as, the Alliance would also like to acknowledge the contributions of: Joseph Schneider Haus NHSC (Region of Waterloo, Ontario); Mary Tivy (Puslinch, Ontario); and MHBC Planning (Kitchener, Ontario).
And last but most certainly not least!
A special and deeply heartfelt thanks must be given to our crack squad of ‘landpunks’ (inside joke) who were instrumental in the overwhelming success of this conference: Susan Burke, Wendy Shearer and Mary Tivy who, although all residing in Ontario, managed to execute one of the most memorable conferences ever. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. (I do think the Landpunks also deserve a bold typeface with their names in the final paragraph.)Powerful vistas, power views indeed! And powerful memories of Victoria, the City of Gardens, that ‘perfect Eden’!
Looking forward to Virginia