Sooke River Hotel

Hotels and vehicles in the past

Elida Peers pens another historical column on the happenings in Sooke and area.

Pub Patrons, 1940s

It’s changed a bit, but you can still recognize the Sooke River Hotel, in Amy Chwojka’s photo, late 1940s, showing eight vehicles parked in a haphazard manner. Note the inscription over the arched doorway on the right hand wing:  “LICENSED PREMISES  – LADIES.”

The wing on the right had started life in 1919 as a stable housing riding horses for guests at the Belvedere Hotel, once a grand four-storey feature dominating the headland overlooking  Sooke River and the harbour.

In 1934 while the Belvedere Hotel was owned by Raoul and Andre Robillard, flames struck the magnificent structure.  It was never rebuilt, leaving the stable building on the lower level by the river standing without purpose. In 1938 it was purchased by an investor. The structure seen at the left in the photo was then added; by creating a “hotel” the enterprise could house a “beer parlour.” This became an afternoon and evening gathering place where many a tall tale was swapped over the years.

It was the Norval Milligan family that operated this new enterprise. He was one of four Milligan brothers who had run a logging enterprise in Shirley during the early years of the century through the 1930s.   By that time, they were feeling the pinch of lower log prices during the depression, and Norval welcomed a new opportunity.

The Milligans raised their youngsters in the hotel portion of the structure, which they to operated until the summer of 1945, right through World War II. One of the memories held by their son Allan, now living in North Vancouver, was of his teenage years during the war.  He had a bicycle and the Sooke River Hotel had a telephone; the telephone exchange building was right across the Sooke River bridge.  It followed that he was the one called by operator Agnes Milne to deliver messages whenever telegrams came in from the DND to notify families of sad news.

When the Milligans moved away, a succession of owners operated the pub, and a café was added as well. The place became known as the Castle and continued to host faithful patrons up until just a few years ago when new provincial liquor laws affected drinking patterns.

Doug MacFarlane, viewing the photo, suggests that the white roadster was a Gardner owned by Harold Goudie, and thinks the sedan at left was driven by Lillian Pontious and Gladys Graignic; he remembers their jolly laughter emanating from the pub as they enjoyed an afternoon’s visit with friends.

We are hoping that readers will contribute names and years of the vehicles pictured, and owners as well. Please email   historian@sookeregionmuseum.com

Elida Peers, Historian

Sooke Region Museum

Just Posted

Wind warning in effect for Greater Victoria

Strong winds could reach up to 80 km/hr along coastal areas

Heavy snowfall closes Mount Washington for the day

Road to ski resort deemed unsafe, “high avalanche danger”

Whisky society commits to charity donation in wake of whisky raids

Refund of Victoria Whiskey Festival tickets won’t impact charity beneficiaries

Victoria housing provider launches crisis prevention program to combat homelessness

Pacifica Housing aims to address challenges before tenants risk evictions

Victoria wins crucial WHL contest over Giants in Langley

Royals take over second in B.C. Division ahead of Vancouver

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Vessel washed ashore in Campbell River during last night’s storm

A vessel appears to have gotten loose and washed to shore on… Continue reading

Liberals quietly tap experts to write new paternity leave rules

Ideas include creating an entirely new leave benefit similar to one that exists in Quebec

Insurers say Canadian weather getting hotter, wetter and weirder

Average number of days with heavy rain or snow across Canada has been outside norm since spring 2013

Final phase of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy trials to kick off in B.C.

Doctors hope to get psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy legalized in Canada and the U.S. by 2021

WHL winning streak ends at four in Kelowna for Victoria

Royals lose 8-4 as Rockets explode offensively

Wind warning back in effect around Vancouver Island

80 km/h winds expected Saturday, Jan. 20, on east coast of Island, 100 km/h on west coast

VIDEO: Thousands join women’s march events across B.C.

Today marks one year since the first Women’s March on Washington

UPDATE: BC Transit’s handyDart service strike in Victoria delayed

LRB application by contractor means new strike notice must be issued by union

Most Read