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Henry Block’s vision created 108 Mile House

Realtor envisioned a 'destination resort' amid thousands of acres of unspoiled land
Henry Block and his wife

Barbara Roden

Free Press

Not many people born in the 20th century can claim to have created a town out of nothing, but Henry Block, who died in October at the age of 89, is one of them.

A true visionary, he not only put the town of 108 Mile Ranch on the map, he built it from the ground up.

It was in 1969 when Block Brothers Realty – the company established by Henry and his brother, Arthur, – purchased just under 28,000 acres of what had been the Monical Ranch, north of 100 Mile House. Henry’s vision was to create a “destination resort,” many years before such a thing became common: a place where recreation facilities and residential properties went hand-in-hand.

However, Henry’s vision went further than that.

He proposed leaving some 80 per cent of the land untouched, according to Pat Corbett, current chair of the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association, and project manager for Henry Block from 1972-79.

Henry’s idea was that people could buy lots at 108 Mile and still have more than 20,000 acres of untouched land to roam in,” Corbett says. “That was the dream.”

Block’s destination resort began to take shape soon after the land was purchased, with the building of an 18-hole golf course, clubhouse, swimming pool, restaurant and lounge, and a 20-room lodge, which were completed by 1972.

An airstrip allowed planes full of potential buyers to land and tour the property, with Corbett’s wife, Juanita, one of the greeters.

She’d receive people as they came down the ramp and show them around the property. Hopefully, you’d buy a lot before you got back on the plane,” Corbett says with a laugh.

The first of five planned phases saw 1,450 lots go up for sale; a very large development even by today’s standards, says Corbett. Twenty-five miles of roads were built in what he calls a “massive” project, and in 1975, there was a major push to create 200 miles of cross-country ski trails on the property,

Block realized, however, that the new community needed more than just houses and recreational facilities to be sustainable. He donated land to School District #27 with the condition it built a school at 108 Mile, which made it “easy for the district to make that decision,” says Corbett.

Block also donated land for a fire hall and purchased the fire department’s first truck, and personally funded construction of a church to a large extent.

In November 1973, phase 2 of the project was given approval, after confusion as to whether development was permitted under the new Environment and Land Use Act was cleared up.

However, it was not long before the provincial government decreed that major portions of the 108 Mile property fell under the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Corbett remembers the day it came to a screeching halt very clearly. He was out in the field doing surveys for the new lots when he received a call over his unsecured mobile radio phone. It was Block, who asked Corbett to go to the office and call him on a secure line.

He said the plan was dead, and I was to tell everyone to take the day off and that they wouldn’t be returning.”

Corbett acknowledges the legacy Block managed to create at 108 Mile, as does Neil Duncan, who purchased two lots there in 1971 and has used them as a base since 1978.

If it hadn’t been for Henry Block, no one would be living in 108 Mile,” Duncan says.

I have a great deal of admiration for, and gratitude to, him. His vision turned into a reality.”


About the Author: Black Press Media Staff

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