Humans of Campbell River: Blind Channel
Humans of Campbell River is a collaboration between Destination Campbell River and Bluetree Photography. Showcasing the stories of those who call our coastal community home. Each week we deep dive into a new story and the connections between people and place. This week we’re sharing the story of Blind Channel and the Richter Family.
Edgar and Annemarie Richter moved to Blind Channel on West Thurlow Island in the winter of 1970. This was their second big move, the first being from Lauingen, a small Bavarian village in Germany, to Vancouver, BC. They had come to Canada with their young family in the 50s in search of space and freedom. They first came across the property they would eventually call home while cruising the coast in a 30-foot cedar boat that Edgar had built in his spare time.
Edgar instantly fell in love with Blind Channel, while Annemarie was less enthused about leaving behind the comforts of the city, but she was also dazzled and inspired by the natural splendour of the place. They ended up purchasing a property that was a former cannery foreman’s home. There was a general store in the front and living quarters in the back.
Edgar enjoyed building, so after a few years of fixing up the new property, he got to work on his dream house. There was no machinery at Blind Channel, so the first step was to dig out the basement with picks and shovels. Edgar and his son Phil built tripods with pulleys and hauled the boulders and stumps out of the ground. And they dug, and they dug…
At the time, Blind Channel had only a post office and the general store. The Richters quickly got to know the local “old-timers” who came by regularly to collect their mail and whiskey. They had a good laugh at Edgar and his monumental digging project.
“What will you do when you have to move?” they heckled.
The coastal houses at the time were all built on log skids. That way, when a new job came up, they could just winch their home onto a barge and move on. They couldn’t understand why anyone would want to put a house on a concrete foundation!
But Edgar knew he wasn’t going anywhere. He had found his place.
The little store didn’t bring in much revenue, so Edgar converted his cedar cruiser into a workboat, and became a beachcomber, always with Phil’s help. He kept some unsalable logs for himself to have milled into lumber at one of the local mills, which were plentiful at the time. He also collected many interesting “character logs”, which eventually became the framework for his new house.
Since they had moved to Blind Channel, Annemarie had been collecting things. Beach glass, shells, watches, keys, necklaces, old sweaters, she kept it all. As the new house came together, suddenly, all the odds and ends that she had been stashing away started to become part of the house. There were mosaics and tapestries built-in and hanging everywhere.
“Edgar builds things, and I make them beautiful,” she would say with a knowing twinkle in her eye. They had always worked together in this way. They first met in a lamp-making shop in Bavaria where Edgar was doing the ironwork and Annemarie was hand-decorating the lampshades.
After some discussion with the family about the future potential for the property, Edgar and Annemarie’s daughter-in-law, Jennifer, suggested that they use the house’s bottom floor as a restaurant. They thought this was an excellent idea. The new house became a seasonal eatery, catering to the boaters who had started to take an interest in the place as a cruising destination.
Annemarie had always liked to cook, but this was something completely new. She grew up cooking in Bavaria. Her entrees, combined with her artwork and Edgar’s fabulous handmade house, were an instant hit. People sat outside, waiting for a table well into the night.
Eventually, a new restaurant was built at Blind Channel, so Edgar and Annemarie could have their dream home to themselves.
Both have now passed away, but the family legacy lives on through the current generation of Richters, who call the island home and operate Blind Channel Resort. The business has grown over the years. In addition to the restaurant, visitors can stay at the property in cozy cabins and partake in marine tours showcasing the wildlife, scenery and culinary opportunities in the area. The house that started it all is now being converted into a vacation rental hoping that visitors will be inspired by Edgar and Annemarie’s vision.