Walter Blackie’s Great Idea
Walter Blackie’s Great Idea
Do you follow tradition?
Whether it’s of the grand familial variety (turkey dinner with three generations) or simple in its seasonal symbolism (Pumpkin Spice latte, anyone?), the answer is most-likely “yes”.
Cherished traditions remind us to look up from our smartphones once in a while. They bring us together and strengthen our bonds with friends and family. Traditions are steeped in history, and have a way of bringing us back to basics and remembering where we came from.
One special tradition that many Surrey families keep, is packing up the cooler and enjoying a day at Crescent Beach. The boardwalk, that view, the lapping tide, and an abundance of restaurants and shops make Crescent Beach a natural playground and a perfect setting for creating lasting memories.
But some memories can fade a little faster than those awkward summer tan lines, and the humble history behind everyone’s favourite picturesque beach is often forgotten. If you pay attention though, glimmers of its past can still be seen sparkling in the water’s reflection.
The first resident of Crescent Beach was Walter Blackie, a blacksmith who worked in New Westminster. Blackie knew a good thing (and a killer deal) when he saw it and in 1871, he purchased 150 hectares of land for fifty dollars, building his home at the Spit. After his passing, the land bounced between owners and eventually was named Blackie’s Spit, in honour of its original owner.
It wasn’t until 1901 that the land began to transform into what is now recognised as Crescent Beach. A lodge was built by Watkin Williams, and housed hunters and tourists alike. The construction of the Greater Northern Railroad in 1909 played the biggest role in bringing life to Crescent Beach, that same life it’s known for today! With the arrival of the railroad also came criticism and opinion. The name ‘Blackie’s Spit’ was deemed vulgar. Travelers commuting by train into the city couldn’t stand to read the name upon entering the town. And so Walter Blackie’s legacy was pushed aside in favour of something that sounded a little… prettier. It’s said that the name Crescent Beach was inspired by an emerging politician who, arriving to Surrey by boat, noticed that the Spit was crescent-shaped.
The development of Crescent Beach was slow to progress. By 1912 there were just 12 homes, a boat house, and the Crescent Hotel that closed down every winter until 1920. That same year saw an attempt to draw more visitors to the area with the construction of the original iconic pier.
Crescent Beach was known as a resort town until about 1913, when dikes were built to keep properties from being submerged under water during high tide. In 1918 the first school was built in Crescent Beach, consisting of just one room. That same year Camp Alexandra was built and still functions today as a kid’s program facility.
Regardless of the economic conditions, the influx of visitors training in for the summer and leaving come autumn never dwindled. Crescent Beach is still going strong as a year-round destination and continues to evolve year after year.
There’s definitely something about the lonely piece of land that Walter Blackie laid eyes on and decided to make his home.
Photo Courtesy of Michael Klotz