SOOKE HISTORY: Jordan River Hotel

While Jordan River is perhaps mostly notable today for its wonderful surfing, it has seen a lot of history.

What could have seemed more important to the working men of Jordan River, the loggers and hydro workers, fellows who expended a lot of energy in their day, than to have a gathering place full of camaraderie.

While Jordan River is perhaps mostly notable today for its wonderful surfing, it has seen a lot of history.

In the town’s early days, when a young engineer, Duncan Irving Walker arrived by coastal steamer in 1908 to initiate the building of the hydro system for Vancouver Island Power Company, a subsidiary of B.C. Electric, it was little more than a remote wilderness.

At that time, Michigan Pacific had just begun harvesting of the immense forest stands of the Jordan River Valley, and access to the place was only by water or foot.

In the 1910 to 1920s period, Jordan River was a hub of activity, and the population generally numbered a thousand.  By 1912, a gravel road had been pushed through, allowing vehicle access from Sooke.

In time, with much of the hydro system in place, fewer men were needed for construction work and the village now included families, who developed a social, cultural and sports-minded community.

D.I. Walker and his wife Katharine, daughter of pioneer Victoria photographer Hannah Maynard, were at the centre of activities, and by 1935 Walker was ready to go into business, building the initial hotel pub, with a two-storey addition shortly after.

Young Jordan River folk would typically hang out at “the hotel” or “the Breakers.”

After Walker died in 1940, his wife carried on the business, followed by others such as the Androwskis, Barbours, Jamiesons and Jennings.

While Walker  missed knowing the extent of the activities that took place there, we understand that there were times when it could become more than boisterous and Victoria newspapers carried accounts of a man shooting his wife, and of a stabbing.

Things had quieted down by 1984, though, and it was barely occupied when the structure so proudly built by Walker, burned to the ground that September, taking with it the railing that was said to carry bullet hole traces of the shooting.

Today, who would believe it – it’s a quiet oceanside community where residents and visitors alike take great joy in the beautiful surroundings and the most impressive sounds come from the breakers as they crash upon the shore.

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Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.