Oscar Scarf house has long Sooke history

Oscar Scarf house has long Sooke history

Elida Peers | Contributed

It still stands, this house built on Otter Point Road in 1887, at a time when Otter Point Road was a dirt wagon trail, just being extended westward to reach the farm of Ted Gordon, almost as far as Tugwell Creek.

The Oscar Scarf house has seen considerable change, though, since this photo was taken in 1984 by Sheila Whincup.

Though the first primitive cabin is believed to have been built by Edward Farrel, within a few years it became home base to sealer Oscar Scarf.

Though Oscar Scarf was born in Esquimalt, he was an Otter Point man through and through, having been brought up by foster parents Thomas Tugwell and his wife, on the farm Tugwell pioneered, and later sold to Ted Gordon in the mid-1880s.

For years we have called this property Gordon’s Beach. West Coast Road did not exist; it was constructed as a make work project during the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the original Tugwell/Gordon farm reached right from old Otter Point Road to the ocean itself, where the waterfront cabins stand today.

While a youngster there, Oscar Scarf cut hemlock bark for a Victoria tannery and harvested fir and spruce cones, which were shipped to Great Britain for reforestation. He began going out to sea with the sealing crews and over time earned his papers as a ship’s captain.

He joined a sealing syndicate, and along with fellow sealers William Sheilds and the Poirier brothers, bought the fast schooner SS Agnes MacDonald, and brought it here from Nova Scotia. He went on to become a captain for Robert Dunsmuir & Sons, for a time serving as master of their tug SS Pilot.

Sealing was outlawed in 1911, and it was then that Oscar Scarf enlarged his home, adding a second floor. He married Mattie Harris, the girl next door. A dance floor was added on the west side, with a staircase leading to six upstairs bedrooms. He ran his enlarged home as a stage stop and boardinghouse and also briefly operated a small store and post office on the opposite side of the road.

When the house was sold to the Blakeney family in 1921, they renovated again: not needing the upstairs bedrooms, they removed them. Famillies who have lived in this house since, have included the Dick and Mabel Davidge (Dumont) family and the Joe and Marilyn Zigay family.


Elida Peers is the historian for the Sooke Region Museum.