Photo Credit: Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism
Balfour is a small resort town and was founded by Charles Busk a wealthy Englishman who came to Canada in the summer of 1888 and began working in the Nelson/Kootenay Lake area. Just a year later, in 1989, Busk claimed 200 acres of land on the western shores of Kootenay Lake and set out to build the town of Balfour, named in honour of Lord Balfour in Britain.
Busk’s intention was to create a community that would become the fruit-growing centre of the Kootenays, and he surveyed the streets himself and named them for friends and family. Unfortunately, the sandy soil and a lack of water rendered this goal unachievable and he would eventually sell the majority of the land.
Balfour was a pillar within the community, starting the first Boy Scout troop in Nelson and personally sponsoring the education of underprivileged boys. As a devout Anglican and a generous supporter of the church, Busk assisted in the construction of the charming St. Michael and All Angels’ Anglican Church. The iconic church was constructed in 1892 on land that was donated by Busk, and the church bell was brought in from England.
Busk christened his estate and mansion “God’s Garden” and the property played host to the gentleman’s extravagant parties and indulgent lifestyle, which he generously shared with his many friends. Busk abandoned his estate following a dispute over a road that would run directly through his property, eventually becoming the Kokanee Glacier Road. While Busk’s family continued to use the house for many years, it was eventually sold to the Government of British Columbia for $50,000.
Over the years, the home and property fell into a state of disrepair and was condemned. The Parks Board burned the mansion down in the 1970s and today only a few remnants of the once grand and historic property remain, including a rock wall, the swimming pool and a 100 year-old Copper Beech tree.