Friday, February 15, 2019
News News History of the Bickle House

The recent outcry over the loss of the London Plane tree in the Bickle House garden led us to look up some of the history of that house and garden. As usual, the best source for such information is the wonderful book 'Cumberland Heritage' by Jennifer Nell Barr, available at the Cumberland Museum. I especially like the Bio of Ed Bickle, people just don't tend to have careers like that any more.

Here is the entry for this property:

2750 Dunsmuir Avenue 1921 - Edward William "E.W." "Ed" & Sarah Ann (Piper) Bickle

E.W. Bickle was one of the most prosperous businessmen in Cumberland’s history; because of his ownership of local newspapers and his flamboyant personality, he is also one of the best known. E.W. emigrated to the Nanaimo area from England in 1889 when he was 20. He was soon a partner in a general store in Northfield, and by 1892 he owned E.W Bickle and Company.

On 30 December 1893 he married Sarah Ann Piper, born in Kingswinford, Staffordshire, England in 1867, who emigrated to Nanaimo c.1890. In Nanaimo and Wellington, E.W. was a notary public, Justice of the Peace (JP), Wellington postmaster in 1891, miner in the late 1890s, and a lay preacher. In 1899 he joined the provincial police and went to the Klondike gold rush, where he also became a gold commissioner.

In 1904 the Bickles moved to Cumberland where E.W. worked first as a miner. He soon left the mines to become an insurance and real estate agent, and notary public. From 1914-17, he was also police magistrate for Cumberland.

E.W. took a job as a reporter for The Islander in 1912, becoming editor and owner (2757 Dunsmuir) in 1913. He bought the Ilo Ilo Theatre (2691 Dunsmuir) in 1924 and developed a chain of theatres in the north of Vancouver Island . E.W.’s brother, Thomas Bickle (2756 Penrith),
subcontracted Chinese labourers in the Cumberland mines.

The Bickles’ son, E.W.T. "Ed" Bickle, married Helen Parnham (2793 Dunsmuir) and their daughter Beatrice married T.R.S. Graham (2789 Dunsmuir). The Bickles held garden parties, teas and dances in their beautiful gardens as fundraisers for the Red Cross during WWI. They also hosted many local events such as the annual sweet pea show for the Horticultural Society.

Sarah Ann died in May 1943. E.W remarried in 1948, to Eleanor Marie Smart, his live-in housekeeper. Eleanor emigrated from England in 1947 to be with her daughter Ada Alice Lilian “Joyce", the war bride of James Thornicroft Hassell (his parents, Reginald and Ruby Hassell - 4677 Cumberland - emigrated from Bristol, England, to Vancouver c.1912, and established a dairy farm in Minto c.1923). E.W and Eleanor moved to Prior Street in Victoria when E.W. retired in 1958. He died there in 1961, aged 90, and Eleanor died in 1983.

A strong supporter of Conservative politics for many years, E.W. was one of the original trustees of the fund established in 1960 to provide suitable retirement income for Prime Minister John G Diefenbaker.

Bickle advertised for tenders to build this house in May 1921. Although the architect is unknown, it was possibly William Arthur Owen (3353 Second), as it is similar in style and massing to his design for Major Hilton’s house at Royston (now the Greystone Manor Bed and Breakfast).

Nanaimo builder Philip Rowe, who married Sarah Ann’s sister, Mary Jane Piper, worked on the construction of the house. It is a two-storey, side-gabled, symmetrical Craftsman Bungalow, with a heavy, two-storey, front-gabled verandah, now enclosed. A verandah addition on the west and back sides has Victorian-style cutwork brackets and balusters. The bargeboards are supported by horizontal square posts used as brackets under the eaves.

The wooden windows are all six-over-one, and the present owners are gradually replacing later aluminum windows with wooden ones in the original configuration. The siding on the main level was originally cedar shingle, and above, half-timbering over building paper, which could be changed when dirty from coal soot.

The house was stuccoed and verandah enclosed in late 1937. Half-timbering remains in the gables, with a quatrefoil above the front door and heavy stringcourse moulding beneath. The brick chimney on the back has lost its corbelling. Inside, on the wide hall stairway walls are two enormous mirrors from the downstairs dancehall of the original Ilo Ilo.

In 1969 the house was sold and became a rest home for a number of years. Present owners Jim and Anne Caldwell have once again opened the grounds for special events such as CDHS’s annual Lemon Teas.

Four trees on the property have been placed on the Cumberland heritage tree registry: a London Plane Tree(Platanus acenfolia), an Elandra and two English Yews
(Taxus). There are also two very old Rhododendron trees.


0 # Miriam Cook 2014-01-23 01:56
I was doing some research on family history and found this item. Eleanor Marie Smart was my Aunt(my mothers sister)Eleanor was born in London, her father died when she was two and her Mother also died when she was about 12,her older sister brought the three children up and they went on to become good Tailor, sewing for the king it must have been hard for her to become a housekeeper when her trade was sewing, her sisters were also Tailor's. I believe when Edward died his children contested the will and I believe they won although Eleanor did get some, I remember my Aunt as a very kind person and did everything to help others.
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