Cordova Bay steeped in history

Nominations close March 31 for awards that recognize community leaders in Cordova Bay

Residents gather at McMorran’s Tea Rooms in Cordova Bay

It’s a vibrant, urban neighbourhood with businesses, schools and services.

Cordova Bay has come a long way from its roots as a vacation destination for the region, a place that once drew visitors from as far as California and Oregon.

And no person was as instrumental to the establishment of the community in Cordova Bay as George McMorran.

“Cordova Bay was a destination in Saanich,” says Caroline Duncan, archivist at Saanich Archives. “During the summer months families in Greater Victoria would load everything in the car and spend the summer vacation at Cordova Bay. McMorran’s tea room was there, ice cream, the motel, boat rentals and of course, the wonderful stretch of sandy beach.”

As integral as the McMorran’s tea room and then 1950s dance hall are to Cordova Bay’s history, the area was already a vacation, hunting and farming area when George and Ida moved there. Before that the First Nations of the area held clam bakes and used the area as a hunting and fishing ground.

If he were still around, George McMorran would certainly be a candidate for recognition by the Cordova Bay Community Leadership Awards.

George started the McMorran Tea Room in 1919, and by the 1930s his motel and auto camp were the backbone of what was known as Cordova Bay.

It is said that George McMorran Junior was just two years old when his family, which was new to Victoria, made the trek to Cordova Bay in the summer of 1893. They slept on the beach on a bed of hay, under a tent. They spent the day roasting corn and potatoes on the fire.

By 1909, at just 22 years of age, George entered the real estate game and helped subdivide a section of Cordova Bay, establishing Doumac Avenue. Following his service in the First World War, McMorran opened a store with an ice cream parlour and tea room in 1919 above Cordova Bay beach, next door to the Beach House that continues to this day.

Tourists visited by horse and buggy, via Cordova Bay Road, or by train on the Canadian Northern Pacific Railway line (later run by Canadian National), or by automobile.

In 1947, the McMorran sons Eric and Bruce also became driving members of the community, as they helped introduce and organize the legendary Saturday night dances at McMorran’s tea room.

Later, the McMorrans were once again influential in the opening of the Cordova Bay Plaza in 1960. It now  houses Tru Value foods, the Mason Jar Eatery, Scotia Bank, the Super Duper Dollar Store and Calico Cupboard quilting shop.

Of course, there are other influential members who shaped Cordova Bay. Bill Mattick, in particular, employed many on his farm, which reached a heyday when it shipped daffodils by plane to eastern Canada.

Today the centre at Mattick’s Farm boasts more than a dozen local businesses including Cordova Bay Leadership Award sponsors Red Barn, Adrienne’s Restaurant and Tea Garden, and the Gallery at Mattick’s Farm.

To this day the ownership at The Beach House is proud to provide a place for the community to gather and to continue the role started by the McMorrans nearly 100 years ago, says Patrick Simpson, Beach House operations manager.

To commemorate the community members who are carrying the torch as Cordova Bay leaders, the Saanich News joined forces with local businesses and the Cordova Bay Association for Community Affairs to launch the Cordova Bay Community Leadership Awards.

The 2016 awards are open for nominations in four areas, Youth Volunteer, Adult Volunteer, Mentor/Coach of the Year and the Local Employee of the Year.

Nominations are currently being accepted by email at cdla@blackpress.ca until March 31, or in person at Tru Value Foods (5124 Cordova Bay Rd.). Feel free to include an explanation up to 250 words.

 

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