Betty-Anne of Pretty Estates
Not far up Morris Valley Road, in the heart of Harrison Mills, you will eventually find a set of stone pillars, signifying a dignified entrance to a breathtaking piece of property. Now known as The Sandpiper Resort, this was once the Pretty Estates and home to the affluent Pretty Family.
You cannot help but feel the sensation of stepping back in time as you make your way down this driveway, mesmerized by the view of the Harrison River, set amidst the breathtaking landscape of the Cascade Mountain Range. This hidden oasis offers a top-ranked, masterpiece golf course, a scattering of rustic cabins, a boutique Inn and delectable cuisine.
It is probable that you will also encounter Betty-Anne, a true legend of the Pretty Estates.
Her beauty is timeless and Betty-Anne only proves to become more stylish and sophisticated as her age advances.
Betty-Anne was the youngest of the four Pretty children. Though christened Elizabeth Anne Pretty, it wasn’t long before that name was shortened to Betty-Anne.
She was the only one of the four siblings to be born on the estate, and in the bed of Dame Nellie Melba, the most famous operatic soprano singers of the late Victorian era.. At the time, there was an accomplished doctor in the area and Betty-Anne’s mother put an enormous amount of faith in him.
“Life comes full circle,” she says. “I was born in this bed in my parents room, which is now the location of my private suite. The bed is still upstairs, in my old room.”
Growing up here could only be described as wonderful. At the time, much of Harrison Mills was owned by the Pretty Family. Her grandparents homesteaded on 400+ acres of land in the area and one of her uncles owned the property next door.
For much of Betty-Annes youth, the family raised Jersey cattle and Silver Tipped foxes. Betty-Anne recollects on days filled with early morning milking, playing in the shallow waters of the river banks, exploring the old logging camps and running down the cow paths that meander throughout the woodlands.
“I was the baby of the family and I remember concentrating on learning to tie my shoe laces, so that my mother would grant me more independence.”
Betty-Anne attended the small, one room school in Harrison Mills. She was not old enough to have her own bike, so would often catch a ride on her brother’s handlebars.
Her father was an outdoor enthusiast, and could often be found climbing mountains and exploring undiscovered areas of BC. As much as he encouraged activity and adventure, he was a businessman. Betty-Anne recalls one particular occasion that he installed the art of negotiation into his youngest daughter.
“I wanted a puppy,” she says. “There was a family nearby, selling Irish Setters.”
Betty-Anne goes on to describe how her father sent her there to offer them use of their meat freezer for one year, in exchange for one of their litter. At ten years old, thoroughly impressed with her bargaining success, Betty Anne came home with a new puppy, Ginger. Unfortunately both Ginger and Zippy, Betty Anne’s beloved horse, were killed in a devastating barn fire, during the frightful, chilling winter of 1948. They are both buried on the property, along with another much treasured family dog, Spike.
When Betty-Anne was in Grade 3, the family purchased a landmark Shaughnessy Tudor style home in Vancouver, but continued to spend weekends and holidays in Harrison Mills. She always had a soft spot for the property and remembers her father often teasing her by saying, “If you marry a farmer, the place is yours.”
Betty-Anne married twice, the latter being Douglas Faulkner, an accomplished architect from London, England. The two resided in West Vancouver for 38 years of their marriage.
Despite an accumulation of cherished memories, there was also much struggle and heartache. Betty-Anne’s beloved sister, Rowena Charlotte, was killed in a motor vehicle accident in 1968, and she lost her eldest brother six months later. Betty-Anne was devastated, but had to be strong for her family. After her mother, Rowena Elizabeth Pretty, passed away, her father sold the Vancouver home and returned to Harrison Mills.
In 1992, at the age of 102, Charles Nelson Pretty passed away on the property.
In 1995, Betty-Anne and her brother, Ivan, decided to welcome the public to share in the enchanting beauty of their ancestral home. The transition took time, as many renovations were required to turn this manor into a boutique bed & breakfast. Handicap accessibility was of the utmost importance, as well as adhering to health and safety guidelines. Walls were knocked out for ensuite plumbing and layout was slightly altered from original design. Once everything was reassembled, the bedrooms were named after each of the Pretty children, with the exception of one bedroom commemorating their mother’s nickname, Pete.
Wandering through Rowena’s Inn, one cannot help but appreciate the charming antique decor. Betty-Anne’s parents made two eventful trips to England during the 1920s. Here, they would frequent high-end antique shops, purchasing much of the decor that still furnishes Rowena’s today. The glorious crystal chandelier, that hangs in the drawing room, had to be dismantled, bead by bead, in order to make the journey back across the Atlantic. The candelabras were acquired from an old castle, and many of the oil paintings were purchased at auctions. The privilege of growing up amongst such elegance, Betty-Anne soon became a collector herself.
1998, the 18-hole golf course opened, offering tree-lined fairways and a majestic backdrop. It did not take long before it was pinned “The Great Outside” and became one of the top 100 Golf Courses in British Columbia.
An avid tennis player, Betty-Anne admits that she never golfed. She immediately signed herself up for lessons, so that she could play the course with confidence.
“I never told my brother that though,” she says with a mischievous, little smile, admitting that there was always a little bit of sibling competition between the two.
People were eager to soak up the outstanding offerings of nature at its finest. Once the gazebo was constructed and proper trails were designed, it became a popular stop for eagle viewing enthusiasts. The company funded the installation of nesting cameras, supporting the research of the Hancock Wildlife Foundation. Betty-Anne is an honorary member of the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival Society, along with esteemed Canadian artist, Robert Bateman.
When Ivan passed away in 2001, true tragedy hit.
Betty-Anne was left amid financial turbulence, trying desperately to come up with the funds required to secure herself as sole proprietor of the estate. The property was deep into the next stages of advancement. Construction of the restaurant, the pro shop and the administration buildings had begun and there were bills to be paid.
Determined to prevail, she liquidated stocks, traded Pretty Timber shares, sold off assets and dabbled in penny stocks. Her speculative gamble paid off. In 2008, she succeeded in accumulating the funds, and was financially secure enough to set herself in the position of purchasing the remaining shares.
Then the market collapsed.
It was a devastating blow for Betty-Anne.
After one promising offer fell through, the property faced foreclosure. They were able to persuade the presiding judge to hold off on numerous occasions, but it only served to put her further behind.
New owners did eventually come along that shared her vision. Betty-Anne had a good feeling about them, knowing they would treat the estate with the love and respect it deserved. Although the sale was difficult, it was a tremendous weight off her shoulders. Legal negotiations began and an agreement was reached that Betty-Anne would remain, as an ambassador, on the estate for five years.
Five years has now drawn to a close, and Betty-Anne will be leaving by the end of April.
It is an emotional time for many, who have come to consider this spry, energetic lady a true staple of the estate.
“Some people ask me if it’s a bittersweet departure, and a few years ago, it really was,” she admits, explaining about how she once considered the possibility of trying to renegotiate her terms. “But it’s time for me to move on and I’m really looking forward to a new adventure.”
Pretty Estates will always hold a special place in Betty-Anne’s heart. Throughout the years, she has experienced many milestones on the property, including the weddings of both her daughters. Notable celebrities have come and gone, including Mark Wahlberg, NASA’s George Abbey, Jack Wagner, Lieutenant Governor Steven Point and many more.
The property has served as the backdrop for numerous Hallmark movies and Betty-Anne had the fortunate opportunity to act as a wedding guest extra in “I Do, I Do, I Do.”
When asked what she will miss most, she is quick to mention the wonderful people she has met throughout the years.
“People that don’t even know me approach me. They want to talk or take a picture with me,” she says. “I never realized how interested people were in the history of this place.”
She has recently purchased a condominium in West Vancouver and looks forward now to reconnecting with old friends.
In years to come, this estate will remain one of the beautiful places in British Columbia and the legacy that Betty-Anne leaves behind, will never disappear.
Betty-Anne has always been an inspiration to those that have come into contact with her. She has come to be widely regarded for her graciousness, her thoughtfulness, her generosity and her exceedingly kind nature.
She will be greatly missed by all those that love and admire her, here in Harrison Mills, but is wished much happiness in the next chapter of her life.