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The Monks House

 John Cooper's House at Grice Point was bought by Harold Monks in 1934.

The Monks house and property has been a landmark on the Tofino landscape for almost 100 years. Traditionally, the land was known by its Tla-o-qui-aht name načiks, "looking down on something". The Nuu-chah-nulth people used the rocky bluffs as a watchman's lookout. The area is also known as "Grice Point", named after pioneer John Grice, who in 1893 pre-empted Lot 114 on the Esowista Peninsula. Grice obtained the Crown Grant (legal title) for the land in 1900, and later subdivided portions of the lot.

John Grice and son circa 1913.

 

John Grice's Crown Grant, 1900. The top left corner is "Grice Point" /Načiqs.

This image comes from Historic Crown Grants Database.

In 1924-1925, John Pirie Cooper, Tofino's Imperial Oil Agent, acquired land at "Grice Point" for the Imperial Oil marine gas station. Cooper built a house just up the hill overlooking the gas station -- convenient for seeing when new customers were arriving. Cooper was a successful businessman, a member of the Board of Trade, and one of the Village of Tofino's first Town Commissioners.

John P. Cooper (right) was Tofino's Imperial Oil Agent.

He built the "Grice Point" house in 1924.

Cooper was also a popular entertainer. Newspaper items show he was often singing Scottish songs at local social events, for example this item from January 1925: "Mr J.P. Cooper sang some pretty songs. One of his own compositions, to the tune of “It Ain’t Gooner Rain No More”, created much laughter.” In early 1934, John and Elizabeth Cooper decided to leave Tofino. The Coopers reportedly were going to emigrate to Australia, yet by 1936 they were running a grocery store in East Vancouver.

In spring 1934, Harold Monks left commercial fishing and bought the Tofino Imperial Oil marine gas station (and connected house) for $4,000. Katie (Hacking) Monks later remembered that he had "scrimped and saved" to come up with the money. In November 1934, Harold Monks and Katie Hacking were able to finally marry (now that he had a house and secure income) and spent the next 40 years together, running their business, raising their family and maintaining the beautiful property.

Harold and Katie Monks with son Harold Frank, c. 1939 in their garden.

The front of the house was reached by a winding pathway up from Grice Road. At one point, there was a carved sign that said "The Monastery -- The Monks live here"! The steps to the front porch were a popular place for photos. Here's the Monks family on the front steps in the mid 1950s.

Harold and Katie Monks, Lois and Harold Frank Monks on the steps of their house, mid-1950s.

The front porch led directly into the front room of the house, which was filled with 1920s/30s style furniture (all included in the original sale of the house). This photo from the late 1940s shows Harold Monks relaxing at Christmas and gives a good idea of how the house looked at that time.

Harold Monks Sr in the Monks House circa 1947.

The house originally had a small lean-to kitchen at the back, where Katie Monks was busy baking her famous cakes and cookies. Here is one of Katie Monks' recipes for Nut Drop Cakes.

Many people remember coming up to the Monks house and enjoying Katie's hospitality. Harold and Katie Monks, and later their son Harold Frank Monks, enjoyed entertaining visitors with food and drink. Here is a lovely photo from the 1960s of Harold and Katie and their friends Mr and Mrs John Hansen and Mrs Jack Macleod. The photo was taken in the kitchen.

Mrs John Hansen, Katie Monks, John Hansen, Harold Monks, Mrs Jack Macleod.

Harold took great pride in the beautiful garden surrounding the house. In 1934, his (then) fiancée Katie Hacking wrote to her parents: "Harold is working hard on the garden. He is anxious to have a nice place and although Mrs. Cooper left a nice garden he is not satisfied."

Harold Monks Sr. tends to his garden in Tofino in the 1960s.

The property was surrounded by forest, with trails leading to rock bluffs facing the outer islands. Sitting on the bluffs was a popular pastime for Harold and his family.

Harold Sr. and his daughter Lois on "Third Bluff" at the Monks Point Property, late-1950s.

Harold Monks passed away in 1974 and Katie Monks in 1993. Harold and Katie's son, Captain Harold Frank Monks, worked for the BC Coast Pilot Service. When not taking ships into and out of Vancouver harbour, Harold spent time in Tofino. He was always busy on the property -- modernizing the house, construction new buildings, and clearing paths to the bluffs.

After Harold Frank Monks' 2008 death, the Monks property was transferred to the Land Conservancy of British Columbia (TLC), who, in 2015, sold the property to the District of Tofino. Currently, Tofino and Tla-o-qui-aht community members are in consultation about future uses for the house and property.

In the 1970s, Katie Monks led tours around the property to raise money for the Tofino Hospital. Visitors could always be assured of seeing beautiful gardens and hearing good stories on her tours! In summer 2019, the Tofino Clayoquot Heritage Museum has been giving tours of Načiks / Grice Point / Monks Property.

 

The Monks House in 2019.

 

By Stephanie Ann Warner, Harold and Katie Monks’ grand-daughter. Thank you to Ava Hansen for sharing information about Grice Point / Načiks in the early days, and thank you to Ron Macleod for sharing the image of John Grice and son Joe. All other photographs come from the Monks family collection. 

 

 

© Tofino Heritage Society 2017