Yesterday, the Globe and Mail (it’s a national newspaper in Canada) ran a story about the Swallowed Anchor, a one-of-a-kind house in Esquimalt, British Columbia that is going to be destroyed to make room for new development. Here are some excerpts:
Anchors litter the yard. A small cannon guards the pathway. A metal seahorse graces an exterior wall, as does a ship’s wheel. A stork nests in the rear chimney. Two characters keep watch from a crow’s nest. The front yard is shared by a mermaid, a frolicking pair of Dall’s porpoises, and a trident-wielding King Neptune.
Atop the house, a peg-legged pirate in a red jacket scans the horizon through a spyglass, a cutlass on his hip and a parrot on his elbow.
The adjacent garage looks like a pirate’s treasure chest.
The small home at 464 Head St. in Esquimalt is known as the Swallowed Anchor, a name chosen by the man who spent his final quarter-century indulging his passion for the sea. The result, still standing almost a decade after his own death, is a folk-art masterpiece.
He flourished on his own, becoming a character in a one-man play of his own creation. When tour buses stopped at his front door, he greeted passengers in an old sea captain’s jacket, expounding on the sea he loved with long recitations he had memorized.
Only as a widower did he indulge his eccentricities. For the annual Swiftsure boat race, he dressed as a mermaid and greeted fellow sailers from aboard his dinghy. He helped the local Thermopylae Club build cairns marking the naval history of what once had been a far-flung outpost of the British Empire.
And he turned an ordinary home into a tourist attraction.
The new owner is Westbay Investments Ltd., which operates the marina across the street and also owns adjacent sites on land zoned as residential. The long-term plan is to develop the block with a mix of residential and commercial units.
The house will not survive, but Westbay development manager Mark Lindholm says he wants to salvage much of the handiwork for inclusion in a folk-art park. Hope so. Lest he wants to be thought a scurvy dog.