Though his name has come up several times in recent columns, we recently realized we haven’t specifically written about Dick Fairhurst’s story yet. It was a promise to Dick and Myrtle Philip that led Florence Petersen to found the Whistler Museum & Archives Society in the summer of 1986, as they worried that the stories of life at Alta Lake would be forgotten as skiing became the dominant activity in the valley. Both had lived at Alta Lake for decades and had already seen many changes.
Richard “Dick” Fairhurst was born to Richard and Elizabeth Alice Fairhurst in 1914, the third of five children. His parents had come to Canada from Lancashire, England in 1906 and at the time were living in East Arrow Park, British Columbia. Dick’s father was a miner and so Dick grew up in mining towns in the Kootenays, moving first to Michel and then to Sandon before settling in Silverton in 1929.
After graduating, Dick spent a short time working underground in one of the silver mines before he secured a job building tramlines for hauling ore. In 1940, Dick moved to Vancouver to work at the shipyards in North Vancouver during the war, a job he later said he hated.
Dick’s first trip to the Alta Lake valley was for his honeymoon with his wife Doreen. The pair stayed at Jordan’s Lodge on Nita Lake. According to Dick, “I came up here on vacation once in 1943 and I thought, well, this is the place for me.”
Dick and Doreen bought two lots on the west side of Alta Lake the next year and Dick began working for Alf Gebhart at the Rainbow Lumber Mill Company, both in the mill and on the boom. He supplemented his income by trapping, taking over some of the traplines of Bill MacDermott and Bill Bailiff on Rainbow, Blackcomb, and Whistler mountains and catching mostly marten and beavers.
Life at Alta Lake was very different from city life and was not to Doreen’s tastes. The couple divorced in 1948 and Doreen left the valley while Dick remained and decided to try his hand in the early tourist industry. He began by building two log cabins, a workshop, frames for two more cabins, a storage shed, and a garage. Bert Harrop, who was well known in the area for his carpentry skills, taught Dick to build cedar bark furniture. Some cabins were rented by loggers so they could bring their families from the city.
In 1954, Dick purchased an adjoining property (formerly known as Harrop’s Point), adding three existing cabins and a tearoom to his business. He changed the name to Cypress Lodge on Cypress Point and began accepting guests, while continuing to work in forestry in the valley. The next year, Dick secured the water rights to install a wheel and generator on Scotia Creek, providing mostly reliable power for Cypress Lodge, except when something plugged the nozzle and the lights would go out.
In 1955, two people came to Alta Lake who would play a large part in the next stages of Cypress Lodge and Dick’s life in the valley. We’ll be bringing you more about Dick Fairhurst, Cypress Lodge, and life at Alta Lake in the 1950s and 60s next week, so be sure to check back!