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Recycle Reduce Reuse

by Lori Treloar, Executive Director

Long before the idea that “recycle, reduce, re-use” was an expectation, the community of Shawnigan Lake was practicing it – with the buildings.


One of the first examples of this tendency was Shawnigan Lake School. Surprisingly, S.L.S. was not the first school on the site. The house, and property, was originally home to the Ravenhill family. Then, for a few years between 1912 and 1916, a friend of the Ravenhills, Miss Cole, operated a school for girls there. When Miss Cole returned to England, Mr. C.W. Lonsdale bought the property from the Ravenhills and established Shawnigan Lake School (affectionately known as Lonsdale’s School) in 1916. The original school building was lost to fire in 1926 but the school carried on and continues to thrive.


The luxurious Strathcona Hotel, built in 1900, became the Strathcona Lodge School for girls in 1927. For over thirty years the girls boarded in the old hotel. In the 60s new dorms were built on the property but sadly, in 1969, the original hotel building was reduced to rubble to make way for progress. Then, on the same property, the Maxwell Baha’i School operated for twenty years, closing in June 2008. The property took on a new life that year, following a tradition of more than seventy years of providing education, as the home of Dwight International School. It rebranded at Brookes Shawnigan in 2016, and then in 2019 became the site of St. John's Academy.


Another building that was recycled was the original public school at Shawnigan which opened in 1893 on Shawnigan Lake Road just north of Mason’s Beach. Initially, it was a one room school.  In 1916, the building was condemned and a new one built on the same site. Although the original building was put back into service as enrollment grew, a new school was built in the village (1951) to replace the old school buildings. The old school site was purchased in 1955 and the buildings were converted into the Catholic Church, Mary Queen of the World. The 1916 school building became the main church area and part of the 1893 school building was used for the vestibule. The church is still active.


Early in the 20th century a number of British Colonels settled at Shawnigan Lake and built large houses. One of these houses was bought in 1926 by Frederick Mason-Hurley to provide lake access for his property. The house was initially used for friends visiting the family but it became so popular that Mason-Hurley opened it as a four room summer hotel, The Forest Inn. In 1939 the name was changed to The Shawnigan Beach Hotel and eventually, with alterations and additions, the year-round hotel could accommodate fifty guests. Unfortunately, the original house and hotel buildings were torn down in the 90s. The Shawnigan Lake Beach Resort now occupies the site.


There are others, but too many to mention. The best example of the thrifty use of a Shawnigan building, without question, is the site of the former Island Savings branch.

In 1946 it was built to be a butcher shop. In the early 50s the building became a Sporting Goods store. In 1961 it was converted to a Laundromat. Island Savings then opened a branch in the same building, in 1997, and later the exterior was renovated. Island Savings closed in 2009 and the building is now the site of Demure Beauty Salon (next to the Pharmacy).

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