245 Swick Rd., Kelowna, BC
Asking Price: $9,288,800
Taxes: $38,026.85 (2021)
Lot Size: 5.54 acres (822 by 255 feet with a 335 feet of waterfront)
Agent: Richard Deacon, Engel & Volkers Okanagan
There’s no other way to describe the property at 245 Swick Rd., located just outside southern extent of built-up parts of Kelowna, B.C. on Lake Okanagan: It’s a family compound.
There are three separated living spaces on the 5.54-acre lakefront lot: the main house is the largest, there’s a secondary two-bedroom cottage and there’s also a guest suite above the boathouse. The owner, 92-year-old Wilfred (Bill) Roach and his family have been coming to the Okanagan for 50 years and added to the property over time.
“When we first came here we rented various places on the lake, it was just a small town really,” Mr. Roach said. “We found a nice little old house on the lake on the beach, bought it and remodeled it [in 1967]. The town started to grow around us, so we sold the place, then a friend called and said, ‘You gotta see this place!’ [on Swick road]. I bought it the same day. It was all bush when we bought it. … There was just a small cabin; a one-bedroom house on stilts. I put in an extra bedroom, a bunkroom, and built the boathouse.”
That was 1973, and by then Mr. Roach was already a couple of decades into his career in oil and gas. His story and the slow development of the compound mirrors the development of Western Canada’s oil industry.
“I first came out to Alberta in ‘49, I hitchhiked out to see what was going on,” he said. What was going on was the beginning of the province’s oil boom based on the 1947 discovery of oil in Leduc. His father was a judge back in Ontario, and Mr. Roach ended up moving to Tulsa to get a bachelor of science degree, graduating in 1954. “I got married down there to a lovely gal from Oklahoma. I was married for 61 years.” He moved back to Alberta, working in the oil industry and eventually starting his own engineering company testing and evaluating gas wells and reserves. His company was purchased by oil services giant Schlumberger in the mid-60s, but he would go on to invest in a number of other businesses including pizza chains and a Pepsi-Cola franchise.
Through it all, the family would come out to Kelowna. “I grew up in Toronto, and everybody goes to the lake in the summer time; we spent our summers in Muskoka. When I came to Alberta we started having a bunch of boys [he has four sons]. My father always said the idle mind is the devil’s workshop, so, come summer, we better get them working.”
The boys learned how to barefoot waterski, they fished for salmon on the shore, roamed the woods and putted around the lake in a converted tugboat.
Kelowna is mid-way between Vancouver and Calgary and so it tends to attract the business elite of both cities, according to listing agent Richard Deacon of Engels & Volkers. As time went on the family found itself coming to the lake at least once a month, and by 1989 Mr. Roach was ready to build something a little grander than a cabin that he and his wife might move to permanently.
The property today
Prospective buyers will gravitate to the main house. With close to 8,000 square feet of living space, four bedrooms and five bathrooms it’s the star of the site. The house is largely hidden from the roadway, sitting deep back through the wooded lot, though it’s likely a familiar site to boaters as it commands a slope that runs down to a sandy beach. Mr. Roach said the design was inspired by French country homes, and the wall after wall of tall rectangular windows facing the lake view does evoke that lineage.
This house was finished in 1990 and the cottage was re-built after 2003 when wildfires destroyed an old A-frame house that stood there. The surrounding landscape still bears the scars of that fire, but most of the Roach property was unscathed. Among the features to survive fire: a vineyard the family cultivated in 1996.
“It was supposed to be a hobby,” said second son Mike Roach. “I’ll tell you, a vineyard is no hobby.” He lives in the cottage and tends to the grapes. “It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been a real classroom for me. We’re just going through harvest now, it was about three weeks earlier than normal. Depending on the year, I get 120 cases of wine out of it,” he said. The mix of vintages is about 60 per cent merlot and 40 per cent chardonnay.
To get into the main house you cross a raised catwalk from the laneway and multi-car garages. Through the doors is a hallway that runs right to the rear window wall with views of the lake. “Jaws hit the floor when you walk through the door,” Mike says.
To the right is a powder room, to the left is the kitchen – kitted out in French country style with painted tile countertops and backsplash and a rack of pots and pans hanging above the butcher block island. Just past the kitchen is family room and with kitchen seating and couches beyond surrounded on all three sides by windows, with a curving glass wall at the end of the space. On the landward side there are doors that open onto a narrow balcony overlooking the formal garden and fountain below. On the lake side is a Juliet balcony that brings in the sounds and wind from the lake. The floors throughout this area are mainly hexagonal terracotta tiles, rustic and elegant at the same time.
Back in the main hall is a long passage that runs past a formal dining room and wide open stairwell heading down to the lower levels, and ends in a formal sitting room with a picture window wall facing the lake. Just past the stairs is a bedroom big enough to be a main-floor primary suite (with it’s own shower and large closets) but is currently set up as a guest room.
The rest of the living space is on the two lower levels, the middle level hosting bedrooms and a library office. The primary suite is here with its own sitting room, its own sun room as well as huge sleeping quarters and massive ensuite bath and walk-in closet. The other two bedrooms on this floor are more modest but also have their own baths.
There’s a wet bar hidden in the wall here next to the library, to help keep guests on the patio refreshed.
The lowest level returns to the rustic tiles, and has a wood-panelled den and also a games room with a 100-plus-year-old snooker table rescued at auction from the bankruptcy sale of a Calgary pool hall. It’s all in pristine condition, as befits a squared-away engineer, Mr. Deacon said.
Why sell now
After more than a half century spending time on the lake, Mr. Roach says its time to move on. At 92, he still mows his own grass, and does a lot of gardening on the estate and he still enjoys himself and the property, but it’s a little different.
“I’m here by myself now, I find I rattle around in it … but I can take in a different view of the lake every hour,” said Mr. Roach, whose wife Helen died in 2013. The house is filled with music whenever he’s home, there’s a central sound-system with speakers in almost every room. “I love music, my wife loved music, they [the boys] loved music a little different than I did.”
The house was built for entertaining, for the family and for friends, large dinner parties or small. Of his four sons only Mike is local though. “I’ll be quite honest, I’m reluctant to sell it … but my son’s are all over the world,” he said.
Mr. Deacon is confident the compound will find another family looking to make their own half-century of memories on Lake Okanagan.
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