Special to The Morning Star
The Mackie Lake House is remarkable for its architecture, family history, and links with the early settlement and cultural life of the North Okanagan. This substantial house is located on its original five-acre fruit lot subdivided by the Coldstream Ranch, ca. 1906.
The imposing’ 20 room structure was built in 1910 for R.C. Buchanan, a wealthy businessman from Montreal. The architect was Robert Findlay; the builder was T.E. Crowell. Some of Crowell’s other building commissions included Beairsto Elementary School, the Smith House (music school), and the CPR Railway Station. At the time of its construction, this house was identified as one of the finest in the Interior of B.C. History has it that Mr. Buchanan was so determined that no flaw or blemish should mar the home in any way, that each evening he would inspect everything which had been built, carrying a sharp hatchet, and any detail that was not up to his standards would be ruthlessly removed.
Although eclectic in its architectural style, it conforms most closely to the High-Style Arts and Crafts tradition and was built to the highest standards with the very best materials.
Several of its architectural features may be traced to Eastern Canada. The high-pitched roof is based on the Chateau style. The second storey windows breaking the roof line are associated with Stick Style and French Eclectic Style. The bell cast roof edges and massive chimneys give the design a picturesque effect. The second storey is clad in the original heavy board and batten style painted in a shade of historic Essex green. The exposed roof rafters, multi-lighted upper casement windows, scroll cut roof brackets, and the interior beams and paneling mark the house as a fine example of Arts and Crafts architecture.
For nearly half a century, the house has been in the Mackie family, founders of the Vernon Preparatory School in 1914. The Mackies moved on to the estate in 1940. With the exception of recent minor alterations in the kitchen “it is practically unchanged from those halcyon days before the Great War when wealthy Englishmen lived rather pleasantly in the ‘colonies’. In this sense it is a rare survivor, representative of many country mansions that have since been drastically altered or destroyed.” (Paddy Mackie, 1987).
The Mackie Lake House Foundation was established by Patrick (Paddy) Mackie in 1993. Upon his death in 1999 the property was bequeathed to the Foundation, which is mandated to preserve and present the buildings, grounds, furnishings, fine art collection, and related history of the Mackie Lake House for the enjoyment and education of the public. These objectives are expressed in support of art and culture, science and education in the community. The work of the Foundation is multi-faceted.
Three programs developed and administered by the Foundation are: 1) An Artist in Residence program; 2) An educational program for Grades 3 and 6 students of the Vernon School District, including a guided tour of the grounds of the Mackie Lake House consisting of an interactive field experience in Fylton Woods. This field trip is an onsite outdoor classroom that encourages exploration of the natural world. Field trips may be booked from May 1 to May 31) The Writer in Residence Program has resulted in nine books published by Kalamalka Press (Okanagan College) over the past decade. John Lent, long-time professor of English at Okanagan College, has been instrumental in selecting candidates for the program.
The Foundation also offers many events for the enjoyment of the community. The Meet the Mackies Tour and Tea has become very popular as actors representing Mackie family members share personal stories and details of the home’s history. The Back in Time Tours present an overview of the architecture, history, and characteristics of this unique home. Another aspect of the involvement of the community with the Mackie Lake House is House Rentals. This hallmark heritage building is highly suitable for business or club meetings and social events. A rental of the Mackie Lake Home offers a wonderful venue for family events.
The park-like setting of the front lawns overlooking Kalamalka Lake is the perfect place for weddings and family picnics.
Events for September 2012 included: Paddy’s 90th birthday party and a Writer in Residence reception.
Bill Hamilton is a member of the Heritage Sub-Committee, along with Linda Jenkins and Shelagh McGinn. Special thanks to the Greater Vernon Museum for photos.