Anticipating the E&N Railway, Charlie Morton opened the first hotel in Shawnigan, in 1886. Known as Morton House, it was situated along the tracks near where Government Wharf Park is today. In an account from an early issue of the Daily Colonist by the first mill-owner, W.E. Losee, he states that all passenger trains, both north and south bound, were timed to stop and remain at Morton House for ten minutes in order to accommodate their more thirsty passengers.
Shortly after this, in 1900, the Strathcona Hotel was built at what was then known as Gilesville (after an early settler). Contrary to popular belief, the hotel did not start as a C.P.R. Hotel. In 1900 the Shawnigan Lake Hotel Company Limited was incorporated with head office in Victoria. A ninety-nine year lease of the site of Strathcona Lodge was obtained from the E. & N. and the hotel, designed by Samuel Maclure, was built for an approximate sum of $15,000.
On May 15, 1900, the Colonist reported that “the hotel had burned at its birth.” The work of reconstruction began immediately with the same contractor and the same plans, and on September 19, 1900, the Strathcona Hotel was formally opened to the public.
Mr. C. W. Lonsdale was a manager of Strathcona Lodge just prior to his founding of the Shawnigan Lake School in 1916.
In 1916-17 that the Lodge was taken over by the C.P.R. Strathcona Lodge was managed at that time by M. A. Wylde, who operated the hotel until 1927, when he sold it to Miss M. Gildea, who established a girls’ school on the premises.
Shawnigan Lake Hotel/Koenig's
In 1902, two years after the opening of the Strathcona Hotel, Morton House burned down. The Koenigs immediately replaced their popular hotel with the more modern and attractive Shawnigan Lake Hotel. Although her husband was drowned in the lake in 1902, Mrs. Koenig and her two sons continued to operate the hotel, including within it a store and post office, until 1912, when it was sold to Mr. James Finlay. He ran it until 1916, when it was burned down again and was not replaced.
Prior to 1914, the station at the village was called Koenig’s Station after these popular pioneers.
Another Shawnigan destination, remembered only by a few old-timers, was Savira Lodge, built early in the century to accommodate hunters and fishermen. It was situated on the west side of the lake opposite Ten Acre or Long Island. At that time, there wasn't a road on the west side so visitors would be picked up at the Village train station by boat and taken to the lodge.
The building was bought in 1928, for a summer home, by Major Piddington fromVictoria. From 1928 to 1930 there is a listing for “Sovora (sic) Lodge (Major Piddington) hotel.”
Early facilities at Savira Lodge were of the most primitive, with no electricity, no water, and no thoroughfare except the lake. However, the cuisine was apparently of such high standard that hunting and fishing came second as a pastime to eating, to the guests of the lodge. In the early 1980s the lodge was available once again for rental but, sadly, it was accidentally destroyed by fire during one of those stays.
Forest Inn/Shawnigan Beach Hotel
In 1926, the late Mr. Frederick C. Mason-Hurley came to Shawnigan Lake with his family, on his retirement from forty years with the British Civil Service in China. The Hurleys bought the DeSalis place on the west side of the lake, now their home “Glenduff.” To gain lake access, they also bought the Neville Armstrong house on the lakeshore. Friends of theirs from China would visit and camp on the beach. The spot was lovely and people wanted to stay, and before long the Bullen family, who were the first guests, were followed by others who were accommodated in the Armstrong house. Mrs. K. Bloomquist (sister of Mrs. Kingsley of the former Shawnigan Lake Hotel) became the manageress and Sam, a Chinese cook, worked magic in the kitchen.
This was the beginning of the Forest Inn, as it was first called. The summer hotel grew in popularity and became well known for the quality of service and entertainment. In 1939, the name was changed to the Shawnigan Beach Hotel, and in 1945, Mr. Dennis Mason-Hurley took over the management of his father’s business and further developed it as a “family hotel,” adding more outdoor games and evening entertainment. Additions were made over the years that increased the accommodation from the original four rooms to fifty. Extra living units on the grounds allow the hotel to register up to one hundred and fifty guests.
The two-generation connection of the Hurley family with the hotel was broken, however, in 1966, with the sale of the establishment to Mr. K. G. Watt, of Vancouver. The Shawnigan Inn, as it was called, was open year 'round. It remained open until the late 1980s, briefly as an International School site. In the early 1990s the buildings were demolished and new buildings were built for a time share condo resort.