Harbour House painting by Edward Goodall
The Crofton family of Salt Spring Island ran the Harbour House Hotel continuously from 1916 to 1965. The hotel still welcomes visitors well into the the 21st century.
Nona Crofton, with six young children to parent alone and provide for, including a new-born, turned the family farmhouse into a base for paying guests in 1916 when her husband Fred Crofton went off to serve in the First World War.
Nona’s warmth of hospitality and lively resourcefulness (e.g. recruiting islanders to provide memorable lively adventures for the guests) made the venture an immediate and long-lasting success, many visitors returning every year. The children provided much of the labour, and the farm itself supplied the food for the kitchen, in which an appreciative faithful Chinese cook, Billy Eng presided for 50 years, to a steadily growing clientèle, his food becoming famous to visitors and Salt Spring Islanders alike. The hotel served as a community centre for gatherings such as weddings, anniversaries, and local fundraisers; it also provided employment and entertainment for the local community.
The Crofton family descended from John Crofton, exchequer general of Ireland (1576-1597) for Queen Elizabeth. She granted him a substantial land estate in Roscommon Ireland; however, it wasn't until 1661 a Crofton obtained a title when Edward became a Baronet to Mote for service rendered to Charles II during the Cromwell rebellion.
Mote Park House was build by the Crofton family preceding the Castle of Mote erected by the family in the 1620's. The original house was two stories over a basement. John Crofton (1778-1816) doubled its size by adding six bays and another storey.
From the mid-nineteenth century however things started to go downhill for the fortunes of the Crofton’s and their big house. In 1865 a fire destroyed Mote Park House and was rebuild in 1866. Tenants rents were in arrears and the house continued to require extensive repairs.
Lord Edward Crofton died in 1912 at the age of 78. As a bachelor his title of Baron was passed to his nephew Arthur Edward Crofton. He was the last of the Crofton’s to reside at Mote Park House. Most of the land was sold piecemeal in the early twentieth century so ownership of what was left passed to his children and then to his grandson Edward Blaise, to who the title eventually passed.
Francis George Crofton (1825-1900) was the youngest brother of Lord Edward Crofton. He was the 4th son, and father to Ernest Alfred Crofton, Alfred Gerald Crofton (Fred) and Francis Lowther Crofton (Frank), all of whom emmigrated to Salt Spring Island beginning in the late-1890’s.
Augusta Caroline Crofton, Lord Edward’s and Francis George Crofton’s sister and Aunt to Ernest, Alfred and Francis, a renowned amateur photographer and honoured with an O.B.E. in 1920, took over 3,000 photographs from 1880 to 192. Many of these photograph depicted day to day life of the Crofton's in Mote Park House. The negatives are now being restored at the National Library of Ireland.
By mid 1960 Mote Park House was completed destroyed and lay in ruin.