The owner of Tofino’s revered Solwood property is converting heartbreak into motivation and catastrophe into opportunity.
The Chesterman Beach property’s main building was destroyed by a fire on Oct. 18. Its surrounding cabins were undamaged thanks to quick and diligent work by Tofino and Ucluelet’s fire crews.
The 2,300 sq. ft., three-storey, house was built in 1991 and purchased by Janine Wood in 1994.
“I’m going to try to turn this around from a tragic loss to a rebirth,” Wood told the Westerly News. “Like a phoenix from the ashes, Solwood will rise again…and, I’ll have the opportunity to rebuild it in a way that will mirror my vision of the future of Solwood, which is to be used by the community for the purpose of healing, arts and education.”
The house boasted a venerable showcase of Vancouver Island artists including at least seven original paintings, two handmade drums by Cal Kalkan and a massive custom-made yellow cedar dining table made by Robinson Cook that took roughly three years to build.
Wood said there were other custom furniture pieces inside as well as a stained glass feature created by Michelle Foley.
“Everything was lost; all of the art, all of the beautiful woodwork in the house itself, everything. It was just completely gutted by the fire,” Wood said.
“It’s devastating. I’m still pretty shocked but you have to move on. What can you do? I grieve the loss of the art and I grieve the loss of the house but you have to think ahead.”
She said insurance would cover a rebuild, though the art cannot be replaced.
“It’s adequate enough to replace what was lost, although of course artwork is never replaceable because it’s capturing a moment in time, so I’ll just have to do my best to rebuild as quickly as possible,” she said.
“Basically it’s all a waiting game, waiting for the insurance company to check the things off the list.”
She said a fire investigator was at the scene on Friday and determined the fire had started in a downstairs bedroom though a cause remains unknown.
The main house and cabins operated as vacation rentals but a large central space within the three bedroom house had been used for yoga and dance classes as well as healing talks.
Wood was preparing to revitalize its community vibe and bring it back into being a gathering place for healing.
She said she reached out to local educational organizations about a month ago and a meeting and open house was tentatively planned for the end of October to discuss how the building could best serve the community.
“I was really excited about that because it’s all well and good to make an income from the tourism that we have, which is probably the main source of income for most people in Tofino, but I wanted to put it back into what I feel is my passion: arts and education for the purpose of healing,” she said.
“I wanted Solwood to move in that direction…Then the fire happened so everything is all up in the air right now but, when I rebuild, I will be rebuilding with that in mind.”
She said the West Coast has blanketed her with support since news of the fire broke.
“The reaching out of love and support has been phenomenal,” she said.