As photographers, many of us have our places that we love to return to often seeking that ultimate shot.  The subject is so compelling you just know locked in the scene lies a masterpiece awaiting discovery.  For me, my place is Old Stone Butter Church built in 1870 on Comiaken Hill in the beautiful Cowichan Valley.  Spoken of in hushed whispers by valley residents, it’s been long thought that the shell of this landmark is now home to spirits only.  Join us today as we revisit this wonderful forgotten place.

Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

The day was cold, but I knew it had been clear all night, and that the valley was likely to be draped in a thick covering of fog.  I was right.  Mrs. Toad had other duties to attend to this morning, and I was left to my own devices.  In a matter of a few moments a distant voice called out to me, luring me…  it was the Old Stone Butter Church once again.

I couldn’t wait to get to the chapel.  And when I arrived, it was even better than I expected.

Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

I suspect the church has become my muse now.  A siren’s song that beckons me over and over to return to see what treasures await.  The only sounds evident as I worked my way around the church were those of the crows and ravens trying to navigate the impenetrable fog.  In the far distance, a dog was barking.  Unable to see where the sounds were coming from only further added to the moody sense of being here, and a feeling of being watched from just beyond the brume wall.

Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

Comiaken Hill in the valley is usually the source of beautiful rolling vistas, with the eye traveling across the mountains of the island leading to a gentle slope that takes you down to the ocean and the tiny town of Cowichan Bay in the distance.  On this day the landscape melted into the mist only a few hundred feet from where you stood.  The thick, damp air almost had it’s own texture, one you could feel between your fingers as you rubbed them together.

Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

Such a incredible place, it’s even been featured on “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” who referred to it as “The church of no services…in which no congregation has ever gathered.”  While not entirely true, the church was in service for only 10 years before it was abandoned for a newer location in the valley.  Ripley’s goes on to say “the Indians will not go near (it) because all those who actually built it died mysteriously.”  Again, these are stories woven to add to the fabric of the tale, but the words resonate as you stand on the grounds taking in the incredible energies that swirl around.

Fabulous details on the story behind Old Stone Butter Church can be found at “Myths and Legends of the Cowichan Indian People – Coast Salish history“.

Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

Each time I return, change is evident.  Further wear, further weathering and decay, all signs of the relentless encroachment of time versus the construction skills of man.  On this day, the grey fog only served to enhance the dull tones and mood of this place, adding a strong forlorn and lost feeling.  As I worked my way around I was struck by thoughts of those who struggled to come here and settle, to build places of worship and congregation like this…  good times, bad times, all these experiences are left as impressions in the building and on the land.

Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

Every visit as we approach the church, just before it comes into sight, I find a little fear rising in me.  Has it changed again?  Is it gone?  Have the spirits finally left and moved on?  While some of the answers to these questions are yes, thankfully many of them are no.

Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

What was once a beautiful handmade stained glass window today is just an old stone frame for the outside world.  Today the church serves as a meeting place for youth on weekends and a seemingly endless canvas for local artists to use to share their graffiti.  This all converges here in the poignant and profound.

Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

As quickly as the visit arrived, it was time to go once more.  As we make our way down Comiaken Hill, we turn one last time to see the majestic structure siting on the edge of the hill overlooking the valley far below.  It appears to have endless patience as it awaits it’s next visit from the those who have heard the tales and are curious.

Or for those who heed it’s siren’s song and find themselves beguiled by it’s raw beauty.

We truly appreciate your visit here today.  We love to hear from all our visitors, so we would be delighted if you would take the time to leave us any comments or thoughts you may have.  Until next time!

Our previous features of Old Stone Butter Church are available for viewing at “A Toad Stands Alone” and “The Ghostly Hallows“.



  1. You picked the perfect day to visit, Toad. The fog definitely adds to the overall impression of the building that would have been missing is it had been a sunny day. Once again a great narrative to support your excellent shots.

  2. avatar dragonflydreams88 says:

    . . . great series . . . you have captured it wonderfully!! . . . I am also drawn to this location (although my hubby is NOT!!) . . . I would love to shoot it in these conditions, the fog I am referring to – but pretty sure hubby would not accompany me a second time, and I am not sure I would like to be “alone” . . . as I am not sure I would truly be “alone”!!!!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Whether you believe in ghosts or not, there is no escaping the feeling that you are most certainly not alone at this spot that’s for sure my friend!! It’s definitely one of those places!! I just can’t thank you enough, my dear friend, for your kind, kind visit today and most wonderful comments!! :)

  3. love this place Toad and I can tell you have an affinity with it, that shows through in the great photos and the tale you weave around them.

  4. avatar David Baker says:

    Fantastic image series Toad! Love the somber mood that the fog added to an already foreboding place. This place has a great story too, and your images add to that legacy.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thank you, David, very very much!!! It’s a real treat to see you here today, and to read your great comments! We sincerely appreciate it, my good friend!!

  5. what a great location and very moody setting!! Love it!

  6. avatar Rich McPeek says:

    Another terrific series and story Toad! Perfect day for this one with the fog! Well done!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thank you so much Rich, I totally agree with you on this one my friend! Many thanks for your visit and comments here today!!

  7. avatar Edith Levy says:

    What a great place to explore. I love this building. Toad I love the beauty of the exterior shots but the interior images are fantastic especially the fog covered trees that you can see through the windows. Brilliant my friend.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      You are far too kind to us, Edith, we’re humbled and honored this morning with your fabulous comments here! Thank you so much for your visit today, we sure do appreciate it!

  8. avatar Jim Nix says:

    nothing like having a photographic muse – and such a worthy subject! I can imagine the elation you must feel every time you approach….waiting to see if it has changed, etc – very cool post Toad! I wanna come there and shoot this place! :-)

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      You, sir, have a standing invitation!!! It would be my delight and honor to have a chance to visit this place with you Jim!! Thanks so much for all your support and encouragement, my friend.

  9. avatar ken bello says:

    Great series, Toad. The photos have that perfect combination of sharp focus on the building and the dreamy fog in the background.

  10. I swear I can hear its call all the way down here Toad! What a great write up of what seems like a great photo day. The fog really adds so much to the scene, and those interior shots were framed so well I love the trees in both! I really hope that it stays around much longer for you to photograph (and share) again.

    Have a great weekend my friend!
    Howard

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      You are so kind to us here, Howard, and we really appreciate it! Thank you so much for taking the time to visit us here today, and for these absolutely terrific comments. You are indeed a scholar and a true gentleman!

  11. Wow, one of my favorites from you in a while, I love this set, excellent!

  12. As you know, Mr Toad, I’ve been there and photographed. Every photographer brings out different aspects. It always is an exploration. That mist that separates the church from its back ground… It’s like a jewel in a perfect setting. I also very much like the way you have done the interior photographs with the natural darkness inside and, looking outside, seeing the same tonal values in the mist as show in the outside photographs. A beautiful series.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      These are some of my favorite comments we’ve ever received Joseph, thank you so much for taking the time to leave these. I love this location and any chance to see pictures of it from any artist is something I enjoy. Thanks so much for all your kindness and encouragement, my friend!

  13. avatar Ron says:

    Great place to photograph and very well done! Greetings, Ron

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thanks, Ron, it’s great to see you here at The Hollow today! Many thanks for taking the time to visit us and check out this story. It really means an awful lot to us here!

  14. These are totally gorgeous images, Toad. I rally enjoyed this post.

  15. avatar Rick Louie says:

    Wonderful series of images and interesting story about the church. Fog really adds to the ambiance of your article. Well done!

  16. avatar Richard Taylor says:

    I can see why it is a place one would return to, especially with changing light.
    Thanks for taking us there.

  17. avatar Mike says:

    Reminds me of the building at the end of the movie Skyfall. Nice shots of a great structure!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thanks Mike, we sure do appreciate you taking the time to pop by like this and leave us your great comments! Sounds like I should see this movie, we’ve been so busy the last little while I just haven’t been to the theater! We really appreciate your visit, and hope to see you here again!

  18. avatar LensScaper says:

    The perfect day for a deserted building like this. The weather’s mood matches the story you weave and the images you paint. As always top notch in every respect, Toad

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