As Summerland and the province of British Columbia observe Heritage Week from Feb. 17 to 23, a building, tree and heritage site in the community have been selected.
The Heritage Week designations have been made for the past 34 years.
This year, the selection was made by the Summerland branch of the Okanagan Historical Society.
The Beer House
This year’s heritage building is the Albert J. Beer house on Jubilee Road, across the street from the Summerland Timber Mart.
The home was built in 1911 by William Manuel, one of the first purchasers of land from the Summerland Development Company.
The exterior architecture is unique with a “twin tower” design.
Lumber was easily obtained because the adjacent property was the Richardson Lumberyard.
The home was acquired by George Gartrell in 1918 and sold in 1919 to Albert Beer.
Albert ‘Bert’ Beer had arrived in Summerland in 1911. He leased retail space in Lowertown from 1911 to 1916.
In 1916, Beer bought John Ritchie’s entire shoe stock from the Summerland Supply Company building, on the corner of Victoria and Main Street. The building is still standing.
The A.J. Beer Shoe Store was one of Summerland’s important businesses. Beer operated his shoe store from 1916 until 1936 when he retired.
In 1918, he married Molly Lister, daughter of Rev. David Lister and Catherine (nee Fraser) of Prairie Valley.
A year later they moved into their new home on Jubilee Road.
The Beers had three children, Gordon, Catherine and Mary. The Beer family still has a family home on Lakeshore Road and family members regularly visit the community.
Other homeowners have been Louis Burnell and Jack Barkwill.
Trout Creek’s Black Cottonwood Trees
This year’s selected heritage trees are the black cottonwood trees found along Trout Creek and along the James and Mary Gartrell Trail.
These trees play an important role in riparian lands. Many wildlife species rely on cottonwood, either directly or indirectly.
Eagles and other raptors use cottonwood trees for roosting.
Cavity-nesting birds, like woodpeckers, rely on both live and standing dead cottonwoods for nesting.
In dry upland habitats, cottonwoods along streams provide shade and cooling for animals during the heat of summer.
Cottonwoods along the banks of rivers and streams provide shade and keep water temperatures at an optimum.
Leaf fall provides nutrient inputs into the water column, recharging the aquatic food chain.
The massive root systems of cottonwoods help prevent riverbank erosion, and the trees themselves slow overland water movement during periods of flooding.
First Nations have traditionally valued the cottonwood as a source of medicine, food and building material. (Don Gayton, M.Sc, P.Ag.)
Bank of Montreal building
The Historical Society chose the former Bank of Montreal location as this year’s heritage site.
Preservation of historical buildings is always a challenge for smaller communities.
Yaki’s Pizza purchased the bank in 2018 and has significantly restored the building.
Maintaining heritage buildings as commercial businesses is an effective method of preserving heritage structures.
The Summerland branch of the society continues to encourage the municipality to re-instigate incentives (such as tax relief) that inspire owners of historic buildings to restore them while retaining their original character.
When restored, these buildings positively contribute to tourism and related economic benefits.
The society plans to install heritage signage at this site.
David Gregory is a Summerland historian.
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