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A 1941 photo of Ken Berkey accepting a soda delivery at Berkey Brothers Auto Service, printed in the Cowichan News Leader Pictorial in 2006. Photo of the news clipping sourced on Facebook.

Why is it called Berkey’s Corner?

The roundabout at Sherman, Somenos and Cowichan Lake roads was once home to a family-run auto garage and gas station that defined a neighbourhood.

Locals know the place where Cowichan Lake Road, Somenos Road and Sherman Road meet in North Cowichan as Berkey’s Corner. It’s a curious name, one that has survived a great deal of change at that location. Notably, Berkey’s Corner no longer has any corners — the intersection now boasts a roundabout.

Today and in coming weeks, Curious in Cowichan will answer your questions about neighbourhoods, communities and landmarks. (If you missed it — fill out our quick survey on the place you call home.)

How did Berkey’s Corner get its name? The question today comes from Isabel Rimmer, who wanted to learn more about the history of that spot. Thanks, Isabel!

Before there was Berkey’s

Berkey’s Corner is on unceded traditional territories of the Quw’utsun (Cowichan) people, who have occupied the area for millennia. It is close to many significant sites, including the historical village of S’amunu and the settlement and burial site at Ye’yumnuts. Artifacts uncovered at Ye’yumnuts include a cutting blade that originated in a volcano in Oregon, and jade tools from the Fraser Canyon.

Berkey Brothers Auto Service

Ken, Glen and Lowell Berkey opened Berkey Brothers Auto Service in 1937, according to a 2006 article in the Cowichan News Leader Pictorial. Their garage was at a busy intersection, where the Island Highway met the Lake Cowichan Highway. (Both highways have since been rerouted.) Ken later bought out his brothers and ran the place, renamed Berkey’s Auto Service, with his wife, Fannie, until 1967. 

The article in the Pictorial quotes their daughter, Gail Doney. “It was a popular place because the location was ideal,” she said. “So many people stopped there and we got to know lots of them.”

Ken passed away in 2005 and Fannie in 2006. But their legacy lives on. Many commenting on a recent Facebook post about the place recalled their generosity and kindness.

Berkey’s Corner today

What once was the intersection of two major Island highways is now the commercial hub of a residential North Cowichan neighbourhood. The spot where Berkey’s stood is now the Mongrillian restaurant, and a recently reopened gas station. The corner also boasts an Indian restaurant, a hair salon, a yoga studio, a dance studio, a grocery, a cafe and more. The Sherman Road Soccer Park sits to the northeast, and the Duncan Curling Club beyond it.

Berkey’s Corner is a hot spot, as it was in its heyday. The land to the southwest is full of new and under-construction residential developments, working to satisfy some of the demand for places to live close to Duncan. 

Just last week, Mayor Al Siebring ceremonially broke ground on a new commercial development at Berkey’s Corner, to include a 49th Parallel grocery, commercial lease space and a restaurant. The rezoning for that development was approved by North Cowichan council by a slim margin in 2016, in the face of opposition from some neighbours. Some expressed concerns over increased traffic and changing the character of the neighbourhood.

Certainly, since the days of Berkey Bros., a lot has changed.