The Burnside House in Sooke. (Kevin Laird/Sooke News Mirror)

Historic Burnside House to embark on (short) journey toward restoration

Maple Avenue property sold to Silver Streak Boats

Sooke’s historic Burnside House on Maple Avenue will soon disappear from the ground it has occupied for 134 years, but it won’t be going far.

The tidy, yellow Georgian-style farm house was built in 1884 as a home for pioneer Michael Muir and his wife Matilda Welsh, and their family of six daughters.

For decades, it was better known as a homey boarding house or bed and breakfast, a hot spot for visitors to the area.

But by this winter, the heritage house, located on 1.75 acres of land, will be moved west on the property – with every beam, wall and window intact – as the first stage of a business expansion for Silver Streak Boats. 

“It would be hard to overstate the significance of Burnside,” said Elida Peers, the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.

“Michael Muir, though the youngest of the sons of pioneer John Muir Sr., was the businessman of the family, and at the helm of an enterprise that figured prominently in the industrial development of early British Columbia, especially in sawmilling and shipping.”

Peers said Burnside House is a typical farm house that would have dotted Sooke’s agricultural landscape during the Victorian era.

For Silver Streak Boats, moving Burnside House across the site and then refurbishing it could cost more than $200,000, said owner Andy Barry.

Barry bought the house and property earlier this year to build a 10,000 square-foot warehouse, but from the start he embraced saving the house as a commitment to Sooke.

“Everyone was telling me to tear it down, but I’m a local Sooke boy and it didn’t seem like the right thing to do,” he said.

Burnside House stands as a reminder of Sooke’s earliest settlers. It’s one of the oldest buildings in Sooke.

The house has a hip roof and a separate kitchen with the same roof style, which is typical of the region during this period. It rests on a rock and cedar post foundation and is clad with cedar drop siding. The interior walls were originally wallpapered with a cheesecloth backing. Several of the original 12-light sash windows are still intact, along with two of the five original fireplaces, according to the book 101 Historical Building of the Sooke Region.

Over the years, Burnside House has undergone considerable structural change, and in 1989 was awarded the Hallmark Society Merit of Excellence for restoration.

Barry hopes by this fall he can begin construction of the warehouse and another renovation of Burnside House, which will be used as a small office complex for small businesses.

He said the new warehouse is necessary to provide more space for his business, and provide off-street parking for his 25 employees.

“[Silver Streak Boats] has got no place to go,” he said. “It’s costing us money to do what we want to do.”

Silver Streak Boats builds, designs and services boats across North America, and has an annual payroll of $1.2 million.

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