– by Carole Pearson –
The community of Brentwood Bay was originally known as Sluggetts (or Sluggett’s). In 1875, John Sluggett arrived on the Saanich Peninsula from Ontario and purchased 1000 acres of land, reaching from Benvenuto Avenue to Clarke Road, and from the water to East Saanich Road.
In August 1892, a post office was opened in the Sluggett home to serve the small number of local residents. When letters and parcels were mailed, they’d be addressed to the ‘Sluggett P.O.’ and the area became informally known as Sluggetts.
In 1880, Sluggett and his neighbour, George Stelly, each donated an acre of land so a school could be built at the corner of West Saanich and Clarke roads. This one-room school was built by a community work party and later used as teacher accommodation when a larger school was built in 1902. The West Road School closed in 1951 when it was replaced by Brentwood Elementary on Wallace Drive. The old school building was recently restored thanks to fundraising by the Brentwood Bay Old School Hall Society. It remains in regular use by the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides and the old schoolyard was transformed into Pioneer Park. Descendants of John Sluggett sponsored the creation of the rhododendron gardens.
The British Columbia Electric Railway began rail service out to the Peninsula via Burnside and West Saanich roads in 1913. Some sources claim Brentwood Bay was named after the Essex, England hometown of B.C.E.R. Chairman R.M. Horne-Payne. There was a ‘Brentwood’ stop further up the line but ‘Sluggett’ was the station outside W.O. Wallace’s general store.
Wallace’s store was named Brentwood Mercantile and after he was awarded the post office contract, mail began to arrive at the ‘Brentwood P.O.’. The Brentwood name became more commonly used and, in 1925, following a petition drive by Wallace, the village itself was officially named Brentwood Bay.
People who grew up in Brentwood Bay even 60 years ago are hard-pressed when asked to describe the place. They mainly remember there “wasn’t much there”: only a couple of stores, a church, a post office, and Bolster’s garage. That didn’t mean there was nothing to do. Community Halls were popular places for community activities.
“Everyone I went to school with came from a farm. There was lots of community spirit – you knew everybody then, and you knew them quite well,” says Larry Sluggett, who recollects his growing up years in Brentwood during the 1950s and 1960s. “It’s not like that now. It’s become more citified.”
Brentwood Bay began to change significantly in the 1960s when the municipality installed a sewer line which enabled properties to be subdivided into smaller lots. The first residential subdivisions began to appear around this time and into the 1970s. The construction of shopping plazas followed, creating a mix of urban and rural life.
Today, Brentwood Bay is home to 8,000 residents. One of them is Ginny Alger of the Brentwood Revitalization Committee which was created in 1996 to bring more activities to Brentwood. “We didn’t think you should have to go to Sidney or Victoria to see live music,” she says.
The result is the Music in the Park series, held on Wednesday evenings during July and August. There is also Music in the Bay, concerts and dances held at indoor venues during the year. Every June, the Brentwood Festival starts off with a pancake breakfast and a parade and lots of activities to enjoy in Pioneer Park. Over the B.C. Day weekend, the Yellow Wolf Inter-Tribal Pow Wow, hosted by the Tsartlip First Nations, is yet another event on the busy summer calendar of Brentwood Bay.
“I have a soft spot in my heart for Brentwood Village,” says former Central Saanich mayor Allison Habkirk. She was in office when formal discussions were held about improving the village core.
Plans were drawn up to make the area more attractive and also incorporate better pedestrian safety with improved sidewalks, controlled crosswalks, pedestrian refuges and raised medians to eliminate a long walk from curb to curb. Traffic calming devices like lowering speed limits and installing a round-about at the top of Verdier make it safer for drivers as well.
Habkirk says, “My dream is to have a very active pedestrian and commercial area. I’d like to see an active, lively, vibrant community area like Sidney. We aren’t quite there yet but there’s no reason we can’t have that in Brentwood Bay.”