Sooke Harbour Hotel Pillars - Sooke, British Columbia, Canada
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member The A-Team
N 48° 22.411 W 123° 43.519
10U E 446286 N 5358070
Quick Description: These three pillars are some of the few remnants of the prestigious Sooke Harbour Hotel, which burned to the ground in 1934. The pillars now grace the entrance to Ed Macgregor Park at 6765 West Coast Road in Sooke, British Columbia, Canada.
Location: British Columbia, Canada
Date Posted: 6/24/2014 7:28:48 PM
Waymark Code: WMM002
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member QuesterMark
Views: 0

Long Description:
A sign at the location describes the origin of these pillars: the Sooke Harbour Hotel.
A feature of the Sooke landscape from 1912 to 1934, the structure pictured rose majestically from the hilltop headland at the western end of the Sooke River bridge. Built at the close of the horse and buggy era, the hotel became the centre of social life in the developing community.

Designed by Victoria architect H. Elmer Nelson in March 1912, it was built by Seattle interests and opened the next year. The names of J. H. Moore and W. T. Coleman are associated with the property, and were among U. S. investors who became involved in logging enterprises in the Jordan River watershed in 1906, and soon after, in the valley of DeMamiel Stream.

Named the Sooke Harbour Hotel when it opened in 1913, the building was intended as accommodation for potential purchasers who might be attracted to acquire land in the DeMamiel area after it was cleared. The hotel, with 25 bedrooms and a series of lounges, boasted its own lighting plant which served it four floors.

The clouds of war changed the outlook for the project's investors. While some new residents did take up land in 1912, the land boom expected for the DeMamiel Valley and Otter Point Road areas did not materialize. During the Great War, the hotel was managed by Charles Barbour, and while it did not attract a great many visitors, it was still a social hub for this community of several hundred residents.

When motorcars became the vogue, the hotel turned into a popular destination for sportsmen and big game hunters, businessmen from Victoria and visiting celebrities. The hotel also sheltered the secluded out-of-town trysts undertaken by some members of Victoria society.

Major George Nicholson, later to become known as a distinguished west coast historian, took over management of the hotel on a lease basis in 1919. It became a popular rendezvous for young and old, and among guests during the next few years were His Royal Highness, Edward, Prince of Wales, and a British Lord of the Admiralty.

Liquor prohibition was in effect in B. C. from 1917 to 1919, and in the U. S. A. from 1920 to 1930. Although rumrunning and liquor caches on the beach were very much part of the local scene in those days, affecting the comings and goings at the hotel, those with first-hand experience are no longer here to tell the tale.

A young Victoria artist who was destined to become nationally famous, Emily Carr, painted at the hotel from time to time, sitting perched on a whale skeleton. She often sold her paintings for as little as fifty cents or a dollar.

During the years of the hotel's heyday, Sooke's largest employer was J. H. Todd & Sons, the leading company among the several fishtraps operations on the B. C. coast. In 1918 fishtraps industry workers from Port Townsend arrived in Sooke, and in 1922 Todds amalgamated with that group, forming Sooke Harbour Fishing and Packing Co.

Hotel guests were often invited out on the fishtraps tenders to witness an early morning "lift". In keeping with the hospitality of the day, they were even given breakfast.

One of the earlier managers of the salmon traps, Pete Graignic, an arrival from Port Townsend, settled on the harbourfront near this park with his wife and two daughters, Gladys and Lillian. As well-connected young women, the two Graignic girls were often seen at social gatherings at the Sooke Harbour Hotel.

Horses for the use of hotel guests were housed in a riding stable which stood at the foot of the hill leading to the hotel, and Gladys Graignic was among the young people who enthusiastically joined trail rides into the Sooke hills.

Victoria businessmen out for a stag party might enjoy a meal of clam chowder, cracked crab and salmon steak, and then adjourn to the hotel bar, deep in the basement. This "gentleman only" territory came complete with its brass rail, cuspidors, and slot machines.

Fortnightly dances were popular with the younger set in winter months, with music by well-known Victoria dance bands such as Billy Tickle's orchestra. These musicians might be spelled off at supper break by local pianists such as Florence Muir and Kitty Gordon.

When Major Nicholson and his family moved to Port Renfrew in 1923/24, the hotel was taken over by the Robillard family and operated by brothers Raoul and Andre, who renamed the popular site ''The Belvedere". Of French background, the Robillards also hosted a number of dignitaries, including the Consul from France's Consulate in Vancouver, who came to Sooke for the big game hunting.

Robillard family members were known for their landscaping talents, and were among those who worked for Mrs. Butchart in developing the limestone quarry which became the world-famous Butchart Gardens. The Robillards were responsible for the terraced landscaping which was once a feature of the Belvedere Hotel grounds.

The brothers ran the hotel until 1934, when a disastrous fire destroyed the famous landmark. All that remained were a low concrete foundation and four stone pillars. While the hotel was not rebuilt, in the mid-1930s the riding stable at the foot of the hill was transformed into what is now the Sooke River Hotel.

Andre Robillard stayed on the hilltop property, operating a commercial greenhouse. Each year at All Sooke Day, until his death in 1956, he displayed his culinary talents by barbecuing the salmon for the eager crowds.

The two daughters of fishtraps manager Pete Graignic made their homes in Sooke. Lillian married Harold Pontious; the couple built a house nearby and raised a daughter, Marcia. Gladys married Rupert Soule, a longtime logger, who was the son of a pioneer west coast family. The two shared a house on this property, where this sign stand, for almost four decades.

The shrubs which were on this land at the time it became a park are a legacy of Gladys' green thumb. She also contributed her talents to Sooke by working for the flower section of Sooke Fall Fair, while Rupert Soule, too, served his community well, volunteering his time for many years.

In fields alongside this parcel of land, the fishtraps operators used to bring their nets, after thoroughly coating them with tar, and spread them out to dry. The wharf area seen on the shoreline west of this park was once headquarters for the fishtraps industry, the centre of Sooke's economy.

Gladys lived her life situated between the fishtraps plant that had brought her family to Sooke, and the hotel which was the highlight of social activities in her youth.

During the late 1990s, both Gladys and Rupert Soule passed away. Without issue, the couple arranged that their niece, Marcia Pontious, would be their heir. Her generosity helped to make possible the sale of this property to the District of Sooke in 2001.

This was also the year that the old Belvedere property, home of fourteen foot tall historic pillars, came up for sale. The hotel site was bought for future development by current Sooke River Hotel owner Don Rittaler, who donated the three pillars which still stood at the time, to the Sooke Region Historical Society.

Through the efforts of volunteers, the pillars were moved and rebuilt on this site in the fall of 2002. They stand tall today, continuing their legacy in Harbour Park.



When this grand structure burned to the ground in 1934, only the entrance pillars were left standing. As the hotel was not rebuilt, the pillars were abandoned and overgrown with ivy, on the headland at the mouth of the Sooke River.

Moved to the District of Sooke's new Harbour Park and reconstructed in 2002, these original stone pillars are reminders of a glamorous segment of Sooke's heritage, while also serving as portals to the park and beacons for the future.
Type: Remnant

Fee: No

Hours:
24/7


Related URL: Not listed

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