Throughout the years there have been six Cedar Hill Scouting groups in Victoria. 1st, 2nd and 3rd Cedar Hill were all called Mt Tolmie and apparently met in the 1st Cedar Hill Scout Hall. 4th Cedar Hill met at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church near St Andrews High School. 5th Cedar Hill met at St. Aiden’s United Church and 6th Cedar Hill met at St. Luke’s Anglican Church. In 2016 only 1st and 5th Cedar Hill are still active. 5th Cedar Hill is of note for hosting the first Beaver Colony in the Victoria area, circa 1974, under the Leadership of Mary Brown (Dave Nicolson, group commissioner for 1st Cedar Hill was a member of that Beaver Colony).
Currently, nothing is known of 3rd Cedar Hill other than the badges on the Cedar Hill Scout Hall badge board. The original charter for 2nd Mt Tolmie (Cedar Hill) shows charter number 938 issued Nov 23, 1955 (signed by District Commissioner George Ball) and renewed annually until 1969. Charter renewal stickers for 1st Cedar Hill, charter number 472*, start in 1972. The original 1st Cedar Hill charter was lent out to celebrate the 100 years of Scouting and has disappeared.
The history of the 1st Cedar Hill Scout Hall is documented through photos and newspaper articles. A plaque on the wall reads as follows:
“THE FIRST MOUNT TOLMIE SCOUT TROOP AND CUB PACK. The Troop first came into being on October 16, 1946. Seventeen Scouts attended the first meeting, and nine months later there were forty-six Scouts in the roll. In June 1947, the Troop won in competition, four of eleven pennants in a local Jamboree with nineteen other Troops competing. The Cubs started also in October, 1946, with six boys and now they have two Packs with an enrolment exceeding forty boys.”
“Due to a lack of meeting nights in available existing community halls, the Troop has been forced to limit its membership in 1948-49, but the high standard of Scouting and Cubbing remains the same. However, in all fairness to the Cubs and Scouts, if they are to progress in this district, they must have a hall of their own; a hall that will serve not only themselves, but the youth of the community, through the organizations of the Scouts, Guides, Brownies and Cubs. A site has been selected on Shelbourne Street near Cedar Hill Cross Road and it is our intention to erect upon it a suitable building. Funds for this purpose are being raised by a canvass of our district. Labor will be, in the main, donated by older Scouts, parents etc.”
The fund raising campaign was to raise $10,000, as outlined in this undated newspaper article:
“PLAN CAMPAIGN FOR ERECTION OF SCOUT HALL. A program of movies tonight will open a campaign of $10,000 to build a Boy Scout hall in Mount Tolmie district. The Mount Tolmie Box Scouts Association building benefit committee plans to present entertainment programs every month. In the spring it will launch a canvassing campaign and preliminary preparations are now being made. Tonight’s program, in Doncaster Heights School auditorium at 8 p.m. will feature movies on England and New Zealand, shown by E. H. Scott. Mr. Scott will show the same movies in Victoria High School next week. Scouts and Guides will be at the meeting in uniform. During the evening Walter Jeune will outline the program planned by the association. President of the building committee is M. A. Stout, and scoutmaster of the First Mount Tolmie Troop is Bob Gilchrist.”
The original Scout hall was an A hut – Oct 20, 1949: Photo with Caption: “Half of former army hut from Gordon Head camp on its way to Shelbourne Street location where it will be home for Mount Tolmie Scout Troop.”
Feb 22, 1954 – “MOUNT TOLMIE SCOUTS OPEN HALL” Photo with caption: “More than year’s work converting army hut from Gordon Head Barracks [now University of Victoria] by members of the community was climaxed at opening ceremony last night of 1st Mount Tolmie Boy Scout Hall on Shelbourne Street.” The caption lists the Scoutmaster as George West-Johnson and the Cub Scouter as Evelyn Ball as Cubmistress for ‘B’ Pack. Present at the opening ceremony were E. A. Estlin, district commissioner; Marin Dawson, district Scoutmaster; Kathleen Fagan, district Cubmistress; and Freeman King, executive commissioner.
In the late 1960s the property was sub-divided, with the SW portion retained for a Scout Hall. Proceeds of the property sale were used to build the current 1st Cedar Hill Scout Hall. BC Assessment lists the hall as constructed in 1969. From the date of the original property acquisition in 1949, the property was held by a group of Trustees. No record can be found of the original Trust, but a new Trust was created September 17, 1974 with four trustees. Hall Trustees included Theo Waters (active 1952-1994), Gordon Hartley (active 1949-1994) and Bert Yates (Cub, Scout, Cub leader, Scout Leader, Rover Leader, Certificate of Merit, Silver Acorn, trustee until 1998). Nobody had heard from the 4th trustee, James Hargreaves, since the 1970s.
In 1993 a major renovation was undertaken with the hall with over 100 community members on site painting the building, building new equipment lockers, repairing flooring, updating the kitchen, installing a new natural gas furnace and applying a new roof. The iconic mural on the north side of the hall, was painted during this renovation, based on photos of 1st Cedar Hill scouts. The inside of the hall was re-painted in 2014 and the roof was again replaced in 2015.
By July of 1997 only one trustee was still alive. This trustee appointed 4 additional trustees who accepted the terms of the existing trust agreement. In 2005 a society was incorporated for the purposes of holding the hall pursuant to the terms of the trust, and members of the society, all of whom are current or former Scouters, agree to be bound by the terms of the 1974 Trust. In 2012 the 1st Cedar Hill Hall Society received charitable status under the Income Tax act and on March 20, 2014 the hall was transferred from the Trustees to the Society.
In addition to Scouting, the hall has been used by a variety of community groups (dog training, aikido, stamp club, Spanish club, after school care) and community members (birthday parties and events). The Scouting group sells Christmas trees every year (records go back to the early 1970’s) and buying trees has become a multi-generational tradition for members of the community. In the 1980’s the hall was used as the destination for of the annual Greater Victoria torchlight parade up Mt Tolmie and in 2015 and 2016 it was the site of the GVA Beaver Buggies races.
Scouters who have come up through the Cedar Hill District who are currently active at the Area level include Grace Seabrook (6th Cedar Hill), Hal Coulson (1st Cedar Hill), Mike Tomczak (1st Cedar Hill) and Chris Fletcher (6th and 1st Cedar Hill).
*For frame of reference, 1st Lakeview Scouts have charter number 456, issued Jan 19, 1919. Presumably charter numbers were issued sequentially – ref http://www.1stlakeshorescouts.ca/history.html