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The Shawnigan Beach Hotel


Around the turn of the 20th century, there was an influx of retired British Army Colonels at Shawnigan Lake. These twenty (or so) men had served in China and India and it is likely that they did not want to return to the restrictive lifestyle of upper class Britain. Instead, they built large estate houses at Shawnigan Lake and set up their lives as if they were at home in Britain. The properties had croquet lawns, tennis courts and other amenities necessary for an upper class lifestyle. Frequent social gatherings for the Colonels and their families filled the calendar.

 

In 1926, Frederick Mason Hurley, recently retired from the British Civil Service in China, bought a house from one of the Colonels. This house, on Renfrew Road, became the family home. Hurley also bought an adjacent property, owned by Neville Armstrong, to secure access to the lake.

 

Friends of the Hurleys often visited from China and camped on their beach. It became a popular destination and soon the guests were staying in the old Armstrong house instead of camping. A four room summer hotel, The Forest Inn, grew out of this arrangement. Mrs. Bloomquist, the sister of Mrs. Kingsley (former owner of the Shawnigan Lake Hotel), became the manageress of The Forest Inn. Sam, the Chinese cook, was in charge of the kitchen.

 

The Forest Inn proved to be tremendously popular and in 1938-39 extensive improvements and additions were made. At this time, the name changed to The Shawnigan Beach Hotel. In 1945, Dennis Mason Hurley took over management from his father and further developed the hotel as a family destination. Eventually the hotel could accommodate 150 guests.  Residents and visitors to Shawnigan still extol the virtues of the old hotel and its beautiful dining room. To many families, from far and wide, the hotel was their regular summer vacation. Here, children could enjoy a tow on a board behind the hotel launch, play a multitude of games or have an adventure in the hotel’s Sherwood Forest. The Forest Nymph (aka The Shawnigan Queen) was always available for informative tours of the lake with Dennis at the helm.

 

In 1966, Hurley sold the hotel and property and it became known as the Shawnigan Inn. For a while, the Inn and the Shawnigan Beach Estates had a cooperative use arrangement and the hotel operated as the Shawnigan Lake Country Club (for members only). This arrangement was disbanded by 1981. For a very short time in the 1980s the hotel became Western Canada College. After that, it reverted to a hotel for a short time. Sadly, the original house and hotel buildings were torn down in the 1990s to make way for the Shawnigan Lake Beach Resort which still occupies the property.

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