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Beyond the blueprints

Whistler's rich history of home building grows beam by beam

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Within five years he had his own company doing renovations and small houses.

It was around that time he built one of Whistler's iconic homes.

No, not Akasha. Not yet. But, by and by, this house would come to have its own name too.

"We didn't really have a name for it," says Andy, harkening back to the carefree hippie days of the mid-70s. "People have called it Munsterville."

Looking at the black and white photo at the museum, B.C. hippies caught in a carefree moment, Andy among them, it's easy to imagine the shenanigans at Munsterville.

If "Andy's First House" was built for fun, "Munsterville" was built out of necessity.

With rental housing scarce back in the day — a problem that would continue to plague Whistler over 40 years until just recently — Munster took matters into his own hands.

He picked a prime location next to Fitzsimmons Creek, close to what are now the present-day day skier parking lots, and built a squat there, complete with a front porch and French windows.

It cost $50.

There were about 30 squatters in the valley at the time.

Munster recalls that as he was squatting, and effectively living rent free, tax free, and mortgage free, he was building an addition onto municipal hall for the land company that was developing the village.

"We would just walk across to work from the squat," he says.

His blue eyes twinkle, thinking about the fact that a new multi-million dollar art museum — the Audain Art Museum — will now call that squatter's paradise home.

He was there until 1979.

Munster couldn't squat forever and as he got married, had a family; one new house began to lead to another. Basic ski cabins in neighbourhoods like Alpine and Emerald morphed into more complicated homes in tonier subdivisions. Munster began designing the homes himself, with the help of his wife Bonnie and local engineer David McColm.

And then came Akasha.

Built not for fun, not for necessity but on spec, gambling on the fact that Whistler's real estate was on the rise, that it would tolerate multi-million buyers.

The gamble paid off.

One month before it was finished, it sold for $7.9 million — the most expensive house sold in Canada in 2000. Munster won two coveted Georgie awards for it.

Thirteen years later, Akasha is still owned by the American businessman who first fell in love with it and had to have it.