Sam Little. (photo submitted)

History: The architectural legacy of Sam Little

Designs leave legacy in Qualicum Beach, other Island locales

With the purchase of Little’s waterfront resort, St. Andrew’s Lodge, by the town of Qualicum Beach, the last of the Little family collection of photographs and documents arrived at the Qualicum Beach Museum and Archives.

Thanks to Jim Storey and Elizabeth Little, the archives has a great resource: the plans for most of the homes, churches, hotels, public and commercial buildings drawn by architect Sam Little over four decades, from the 1930s to the early 1960s. While the majority of Sam’s designs are found in Qualicum Beach buildings, he also designed for clients in Alberni, Port Alberni, Parksville, Comox, Courtenay, Nanaimo, Bowser, Kitimat, Prince Rupert and Calgary.

He retired at age 83 in 1965.

Simon Mure Little (Sam) obtained his certificate as a naval architect at the Glasgow West of Scotland Technical College, attending night classes while working in the Clyde shipyards during the day. He emigrated to Canada in 1913, and in 1915 purchased 14 acres near Whiskey Creek and set up a chicken farm with help from his brother-in-law Jock Maclaine.

When Jock left to fight overseas Sam moved his family to Vancouver while he worked for four years as an assistant naval architect in Wallace’s shipyards. He helped to design HMS Qualicum, a mine sweeper that was named after the town after a war bonds competition, as well as the ship’s crest, which was adopted by Qualicum Beach as its town crest. He also designed a CPR ferry ship called the Princess Louise. The family returned to the chicken farm after the war years but in 1930 sold the farm to move to Qualicum Beach.

The hundreds of plans available at the archives demonstrate Little’s prolific output and his versatility as an architect.

His first church design was the original St. Stephen’s United Church, which today serves as the Qualicum Community Baptist Church next to the train station today. This 1941 church design was used as a model for small churches throughout Canada after it appeared in a national magazine. He never charged for church plans, so his daughter Elizabeth claimed he became a very busy church architect. The Ligh Gate at St. Mark’s church and Grace United Church in Coombs are also his designs.

St. Andrew’s Lodge displays Sam’s style in many of his 1930s buildings, which was a plaster and beam blend of English and Scottish styles, with some Canadian adaptations.

Gray Shakes, on Judge’s Row, built for H. R. Macmillan, and Ten Firs, also on Judge’s Row, are well-known Little designs as they show the emergence of a distinct coastal style. The use of natural materials that reflect their locale give these homes a look that has maintained its appeal over many decades.

But Little also followed changing trends in housing, as the large ranch style on homes on Memorial Avenue south of the golf course clubhouse show. Known for his perfectionism and attention to detail, Little designed more than 60 homes for a number of local builders.

Public buildings in Qualicum Beach designed by Sam Little include the original village office, the original fire hall, the community hall on Memorial, the original library, the addition to Qualicum School (now TOSH) and Village Theatre. He also designed a number of hotels and businesses, including the Sunset Motel, Snow White Motel, Buena Vista Motel, as well as several major renovations for the Shady Rest Hotel.

– Submitted by Nanci Langford for Qualicum Beach Historical and Museum Society

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