We’re all familiar with Brandywine Falls, but did you know that it used to be a thriving resort? Julie Gallagher, whose parents Ray and Ruth Gallagher ran the resort, will be with us this Saturday (April 28) to share her family’s stories and photos and to discuss how Brandywine Falls went from a bustling fishing destination to the provincial park you see today.
Tickets for the talk are $10 ($5 for Museum and Club Shred members) and are available at the Whistler Museum.
To complement our Speaker Series, Julie will be offering guided walks through the area on Saturday and Sunday. We’re very excited to announce that Sea to Sky Parks will be opening the park gates a few days early and parking will be available.
The walk, which will tour the area once occupied by Brandywine Falls Resort, will last around an hour. If you’ve ever wondered about the remains of buildings or other things you’ve found at Brandywine this walk may just answer all your questions!
Dogs are welcome to attend but must be leashed. Tours will meet at noon at the entrance to Brandywine Provincial Park off Highway 99.
For more information, please call the museum at 604-932-2019
Long before Brandywine Falls was established as a provincial park in 1973 the area was a well-known destination for sightseers, hikers and campers.
Not known, or at least not confirmed, is the origin of the name Brandywine. The most popular story of the name was reported in The Vancouver Sun in 1946 by Wallace Gillespie who in turn was quoting a man named Cliff Thorne who lived in the Squamish area beginning in the 1890s. In this version dated to 1910, Jack Nelson and Bob Mollison, two surveyors for the Howe Sound and Northern Railway (which became part of the PGE Railway), wagered a bottle of brandy on which of them could more accurately estimate the height of the falls. When the height was later measured using a chain Mollison had the closer estimation and Nelson bestowed the name Brandywine Falls in memory of his lost wager.
Another account of the naming of Brandywine Falls comes from a source closer to home. Alex Philip claimed that Charles Chandler (known locally as Charlie and famous for blowing up his own outhouse) and George Mitchell were passing through the area on their way to trappers cabins and stopped at the waterfall for tea. One had brought a bottle of wine and the other a bottle of brandy and both were mixed in with the tea in a billycan. After drinking this concoction the two are reported to have passed out for an entire day.
Regardless of which, if either, story is true the name Brandywine stuck to the waterfall and surrounding area.
Near the beginning of the twentieth century a family from Ontario called the Conroys moved West and preempted 380 acres of land for homesteading, logging and a mill site in the area that is now the Brandywine Falls Provincial Park. As the Permberton-Lillooet Caribou Trail passed by only about 500 feet from the falls, the area had previously been used as a way station for north-bound travelers.
The opening of the PGE Railway brought sightseers in open cars and the construction of a train station meant the area became a popular spot for picnic-goers in the 1920s. A supply road was put in by BC Electric in the 1950s followed by the construction of the highway in the 1960s, bringing more visitors.
In 1966 Brandywine Falls was featured in the film “The Trap” starring Oliver Reed as a fur trapper in the wilds of Canada who takes Eve, a mute girl played by Rita Tushingham, as his unwilling wife to his remote cabin in the woods. In one scene a battle between Reed and a black bear is waged on the brink of Brandywine Falls.
Some time in the 1960s Charlie “Whitewater” Conroy (who, in an interesting side note recorded a ballad about the Woodfibre pulp mill called “The Ballad of Woodfibre” in 1972) sold the property around Brandywine to Ray Gallagher. In an article Gallagher wrote for Garibaldi’s Whistler News in 1970 he expresses the hope that “instead of developing as it must to survive, Brandywine should become a Public Park for the people in all season, for all times.” Just three years later Brandywine Falls became a provincial park and continues to attract sightseers and hikers each year.