Tag Archives: Florence Petersen

Whistler Museum Celebrates 30 Years

It was the chance for a weekend get-away spot that spurred Florence Petersen and four friends to purchase a small cabin at Alta Lake in the mid ’50s.

Florence Petersen (founder of the Whistler Museum & Archives Society) and her friends (left to right) Jacquie Pope, June Tidball, Fido, Getty Gray and Eunice "Kelly" Forster at their Witsend cottage in 1955.

Florence Petersen (founder of the Whistler Museum & Archives Society) and her friends (left to right) Jacquie Pope, June Tidball, Fido, Getty Gray and Eunice “Kelly” Forster at their Witsend cottage in 1955.

At the time, the valley was a quaint summer fishing resort with only a handful of year-round residents.  In the years following, the valley would transform from its humble beginnings into the internationally renowned four-season resort we now know.

With so much change taking place in the ’70s, early pioneer Myrtle Philip and Cypress Lodge owner Dick Fairhurst confessed to Florence a worry that the early days would soon be forgotten.  Florence eased their fears by promising them that she would somehow ensure that their stories would be remembered and, true to her word, Florence started the Whistler Museum and Archives as a charitable non-profit society.

The Whistler Museum and Archives cookbook committee, April 1977: Janet Love-Morrison, Florence Petersen (founder of the Whistler Museum and Archives Society), Darlyne Christian and Caroline Cluer.

The Whistler Museum and Archives cookbook committee, April 1977: Janet Love-Morrison, Florence Petersen, Darlyne Christian and Caroline Cluer.

Since incorporating on February 12, 1987, the Museum’s basic function has been to collect and preserve the history of the Whistler Valley and to display, educate and disseminate information about Whistler’s history and its role in the greater society of British Columbia and Canada.

To that end, the Museum collects and preserves artefacts, archives and oral histories.  To date we have acquired some 275 feet of archival records, including documents and photographs.  Our collection includes 2332 artefacts; 80 oral interviews that have been conducted, digitized and transcribed; approximately 300,000 photographs, both negatives and prints; 150 hours of video (VHS, SVHS, DVD, DVcam, hi8 and U-Matic formats); and 13.5 hours of film in both 8mm and 16mm.

Our Collections Manager Alyssa strives to organize, catalogue and digitize our ever-growing archive.

Our Collections Manager Alyssa strives to organize, catalogue and digitize our ever-growing archive without being swallowed by it.

In order to make the Museum’s information easy to access there is a consistent ongoing project to organize, catalogue and digitize its collection.  The artefact collection is 99% catalogued.  150 archival collections have been catalogued and are available online at the Museum’s ICA-Atom archival database.  Approximately 42,000 photographs have been digitized to archival standards.  The Museum endeavours to interpret the history of Whistler and the Museum’s information collection for visitors and the community with its exhibits, walking tours, blog and programs such as our very successful Discover Nature Project.

2016 was the busiest year in the Museum’s history in terms of exhibit visits, with a 7% growth over 2015 (another record year).  We hope to continue our momentum in growing our numbers in regards to both our exhibit visits and the amount of material that we can make available to the public.

An original gondola from Whistler Mountain sits proudly as part of our exhibits.

An original gondola from Whistler Mountain sits proudly as part of our exhibits.

A special thank you to everyone who has volunteered, donated, visited our exhibits, attended our events, read our stories and helped spread the word about Whistler’s fascinating heritage over the past 30 years.

The Whistler Museum would like to invite you to our 30th Anniversary Open House on Sunday, February 12, 7:30 – 9 pm.  Join us for an evening of food, music and free admission to explore the museum, venture into the archives and meet our staff.  Everyone is welcome and we hope to see you there.

Sailing Alta Lake in 1966

Sailing on Alta Lake is one of the most time-honoured and pleasant ways to pass a summer day in the Whistler Valley.

While mountain biking, hiking, golf, and several other activities might be more popular today, sailing remains a cherished and time-honoured was to pass a summer day in Whistler.

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Sewell & Jean Tapley (Myrtle Philip’s father & sister) sailing on Alta Lake, circa 1920s.

It was a favoured activity of Myrtle & Alex Philip, as well as other residents and visitors of Alta Lake going back a century. But it wasn’t until the creation of the Alta Lake Sailing Club, founded in 1966, that an organized sailing community came to be. Based out of Dick Fairhurst’s Cypress Lodge, the same building that the Whistler Sailing Club operates out of today!

In our collection of home videos recorded by Florence Petersen, we have footage from a sailing regatta on Alta Lake from this period. It’s quite possibly their first ever regatta, held in 1966, and playfully dubbed the “Regretta.”

The video provides a wonderful scene of a timeless Whistler activity. With the current blast of pleasant summer weather we are experiencing, hopefully you get out on the water soon as well!

Florence Petersen Home Video: Driving up to Whistler… in 1958

The Sea-to-Sky Highway is widely regarded as one of the most scenic drives in the province, if not the world. Driving along Howe Sound one enjoys a nearly constant vista over the shining blue sea, while the climb to Whistler features such marvellous sights as the Stawamus Chief, the Tantalus Range, Cheakamus Canyon, and more.

Though problem still remain, the major upgrades leading up to the 2010 Olympics made the highway smoother, more relaxing, and made it easier to enjoy the sights en route. It’s common to hear drivers reminisce about the white-knuckle driving on the older, narrower, windier road.

But let’s take things back a little further. This week we feature a home video made by Florence Strachan (better known as Florence Petersen, after she wed Andy Petersen in 1967) during a drive up to Alta Lake, as the Whistler Valley was known at the time, in 1958. Back then the road was completely unpaved, far more winding and treacherous than almost any living person can recall. And so Florence and friends made a full day of it (not entirely by choice), and recorded this wonderful video of their drive.

Keep an eye out for familiar landmarks, and some big changes that have occurred in the decades since. Enjoy:

 

 

Florence must have had her backpacking gear in the trunk, because later that summer she went on this memorable hike to Burnt Stew Basin:

Petersen Family Home Video – Creekside in 1974

We can get pretty wordy around here, so w e’re going to switch things up this week. If a picture is worth a thousand words, than what’s the value in video?

We’re fortunate enough to be quite rich when it comes to film, so we’ll share some of that this week.

Earlier this year we were able to digitize some home video filmed by Whistler pioneers Florence and Andy Petersen. They provide a fascinating look at the resorts early days, from the 1950s-70s. Several short videos have been uploaded to our YouTube account, but this week we’ll highlight a single clip from 1974.

It opens with a quick pan across Alta Lake to Mount Currie, Wedge Mountain, and Weart Mountain glowing in the winter sun. It then cuts to a slow drive past Creekside, Whistler’s original ski resort base. One is able to spot the Gondola Barn, the Skier’s Chapel. the original Gulf gas station, and several other modest wooden structures.

Though Creekside certainly has its charms, it is a far cry from the thoroughly planned and meticulously maintained Whistler Village. Though short, the clip allows you to understand the lay of the land much better than words or photos.

 

Since we’re quite well-endowed in the photo department as well, we’ll include a lovely photo of Florence swimming in an alpine tarn (perhaps Harmony Lake) in August 1958.

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Ice harvest on Alta Lake

Usually, we don’t think about ice very often, unless there’s none in the freezer. The cold, slippery truth is that our local ice deserves more consideration than that. Wrap up warm, and we’ll take you back to the times when the ice harvest was a hard, but fun, event in our valley.

Cutting ice was a big event at Alta Lake. The Photograph shows Sewall Tapley (Myrtle Philip’s father) in foreground and Rainbow Lodge guests. Whistler Museum, Philip collection, 1920s

Cutting ice was a big event at Alta Lake. The Photograph shows Sewall Tapley (Myrtle Philip’s father) in foreground together with Rainbow Lodge guests. Whistler Museum, Philip collection, 1920s

Since amenities were few before the 1960s, ice was one of the only ways to keep things cool and food from spoiling. Ice blocks were cut out of the frozen Alta Lake during February, when the ice was thickest. In the 1920s, it would take Myrtle and Alex Philip, the owners of Rainbow Lodge (Whistler’s first resort lodge), about two weeks to get enough ice to last the summer. The ice cutting was very hard work – as one can imagine due to fact that our early settlers had no modern tools. “They cut the ice with an ice saw… like a big crosscut saw” noted Myrtle on the back of her photos. Blocks were cut out of the chilled Alta Lake, loaded onto a sled, and pulled to an ice house where the blocks were kept to provide refrigeration through the summer months.

A chore for every winter until Hydro came in: Alex Philip with an ice saw cutting blocks of ice out of Alta Lake. They were stored in sawdust in an ice house for summer use. Whistler Museum, Philip collection, 1920s

A chore for every winter until Hydro came in: Alex Philip with an ice saw cutting blocks of ice out of Alta Lake. They were stored in sawdust in an ice house for summer use. Whistler Museum, Philip collection, 1920s

A couple of small ice houses dotted the valley’s landscape at this time. Ice houses were double-walled, tightly insulated structures packed with sawdust, capable of keeping large amounts of ice through the warm months. At first, Myrtle and Alex built their ice house near Rainbow Lodge. It was later moved closer to Alta Lake to cut down on the distance that the ice needed to be hauled.

The early Rainbow Lodge with the ice house close by. It was later moved closer to Alta Lake to cut down on the distance that the ice needed to be hauled, Whistler Museum, Philip collection, 1919

The early Rainbow Lodge with the ice house close by. It was later moved closer to Alta Lake to cut down on the distance that the ice needed to be hauled, Whistler Museum, Philip collection, 1919

Of course, the hard work had to be duly celebrated. In her book Whistler Reflections, Florence Petersen, founder of the Whistler Museum, remembers that after the ice-cutting work Alta Lake locals like Alex Philip would gather at the cabin of Bill MacDermott, an American who settled on the south end of Alta Lake in 1919: “His jugs of homebrew would be brought out from under the floorboards to help celebrate.”

A Fitting Honour – Florence Petersen Park Unveiling Ceremony

For most of the summer, the empty lot between the museum and the public library has been a fairly heavy duty construction zone.  There has been a steady hive of activity as RMOW staff and various contractors have been busy transforming the dusty, under-utilized space into a verdant work of art. The work is nearly done, and we couldn’t be more excited to share the finished product with you.

This Wednesday, August 28th at 2pm you are invited to join RMOW & Museum staff, Her Worship Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, friends and family of the Petersen family for the official unveiling ceremony for Florence Petersen  Park.

The landscaping work is still underway, but already the park is a very beautiful and welcoming space.

The landscaping work is still in progress, but already the park is a beautiful and welcoming space.

Florence, a cherished and influential resident of the Whistler Valley for more than five decades, and the founder of the Whistler Museum, passed away on August 28th last year. It is fitting that this public space dedicated in her honour be located right next to the building that is such an important part of her legacy, and that the unveiling ceremony occur on the 1-year anniversary of her passing.

The park acts as a natural extension of the Museum itself. The open lawn provides the perfect space for outdoor talks, children’s crafts, and other activities when the summer weather permits. There will be a large memorial plaque for Florence surrounded by flowers symbolic of her long-time role as local marriage commissioner; at least two of the staff who helped construct the park were personally wed by Florence.

The gentle slope creates a wonderful natural ampitheatre effect.

The gentle slope creates a wonderful natural ampitheatre effect.

The bright green lawn perfectly complements the wonderful mural painted last year by local artist Kris Kupskay, making the vibrant colours pop that much more. New trails link the park with the pre-existing Village Park, with its historical logging stumps and fascinating nurse trees.

This western redcedar tree grew straight out of an old logging stump. Coastal forests are fertility and regeneration defined.

This western redcedar tree grew straight out of an old logging stump. Coastal forests are fertility and regeneration defined.

As well, an original Red Chair has been installed, for those who find the picnic tables lacking historical gravitas. With all these elements (and a few more still to come), Florence Petersen Park immediately becomes one of the best picnic/lunch spots in Whistler Village.

Not your average bench.

Not your average bench.

We’re thrilled for this beautiful park, and the fitting memorial it provides for our dear friend. We hope you have a chance to join us for the park’s unveiling ceremony and that this modest green space becomes a cherished rest spot for all tourists and visitors alike.

Florence Petersen