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Elphinstone Chronicles: Revisiting Chaster House

Memories of the eponymous Chasters
C. Brian Thicke on lawn behind Chaster House_resized
Brian Thicke on the lawn behind Chaster House

At the May Elphinstone Community Association (ECA) Meeting, the Sunshine Coast Regional District chief administrative officer, Dean McKinley, addressed many concerns including stormwater runoff, local trails, and bylaw enforcement. And Chaster House is open! After being shut down due to COVID (of course) and the bridge flooding out, residents are allowed to enter the property but not by the bridge. To enquire about renting it, email recinfo@scrd.ca. 

I recently spoke with Brian Thicke, great-grandson of James Chaster who owned and developed many of the cottages along Ocean Beach Esplanade still standing today. Brian and his wife Janice built a lovely home on old family land along the esplanade and are founding members of Ocean Beach Esplanade Association (OBENA). Chaster House was rebuilt around 1955-56 near the same location that the original house stood. The first one was built in the early 1900s by James Chaster and was named Trelawney. Brian says, “The Union Steamship brought guests to the area and they became the summer cottage owners along the beach so I’m going to guess that the original house was a lodge as well at some point.” He notes that the area was used and known by the Skwxú7mesh as Stelkaya. 

Some believe the original house was burnt down and some recall it was torn down due to its chilly beachfront location, but in any case, it was gone by the mid 1920s when the Chasters built the first Bonnie Brook Lodge further away from the cold winter winds blowing in from the ocean. That first Bonnie Brook Lodge did burn down and was rebuilt into the lovely place that it is today.  

The Chaster holdings were gradually apportioned off to succeeding generations and as Brian told me, many of the cottages were sold to the summer families who begged Mr. Chaster to sell them. He fondly recalls spending every summer as a child, in the little cottage (still there) next to the Chaster House property with his parents, two brothers and sister. Brian says that his grandmother Florence Chaster was a real force – she would arrive at the cottage at 7 a.m. to rouse him from bed to pick blackberries. Florence was the wife of Harry Chaster, the youngest son of James Chaster. She ran the store supplying summer cottagers that stood at the foot of Harry Road. A few years ago, I interviewed Murray King (Aug. 15, 2019 edition), whose family King Road is named for. He remembered Florence Chaster as a kind woman who would occasionally buy bantam chickens from him, which he raised for extra pocket money. He bought Orange Crush at the store and ice cream cones for a nickel. 

The SCRD had the foresight to buy the Chaster House and grounds in 1992, and ever since, residents have enjoyed the beauty of that little piece of oceanfront land. The ECA has held many a summer barbeque there. Brian says that Florence had a wonderful garden in what is now lawn – he remembers helping to pick rhubarb, peas, carrots, beets, raspberries and potatoes. Florence was a keen competitor at fall fairs and often won prizes for her produce. Residents will be happy to have this little gem back and available. Do you have memories of Chaster House? Email me at: author.ggneilson@gmail.com