Royalty housed at Belvedere Hotel

Sweeping up to the front portico of the Belvedere Hotel in one’s roadster was a pretty exciting experience during the 1920s. Standing on the headland high above the Sooke River bridge, the view from the four-storey hotel took in the Sooke Harbour, Government Wharf, and Whiffin Spit.

The Belvedere Hotel stood above the Sooke River.

Sweeping up to the front portico of the Belvedere Hotel in one’s roadster was a pretty exciting experience during the 1920s. Standing on the headland high above the Sooke River bridge, the view from the four-storey hotel took in the Sooke Harbour, Government Wharf, and Whiffin Spit.

Built in 1912 by Seattle interests, the hotel, which had its own lighting plant, was expected to house potential purchasers who would come to look at land development. The building of the hotel was connected to the railway that carried logs from far up in the DeMamiel Valley, hauling the logs by steam locomotive and flatdeck to a wharf at the Belvista area near the museum, where they were dumped into the saltchuck.

Some thought the hotel was ahead of its time, but its history highlighted a period of Sooke’s development that has probably never been equaled. During prohibition, rumrunners are said to have known the hotel well.

In the 1970s, when interviewing Major George Nicholson, a well-known West Coast historian and author who had managed the hotel for a period, I could not get a direct answer to questions about rum running. Declining to speak on tape, the charming Major smiled roguishly and offered only broad hints about liquor caches.

In 1919, the dashing Prince of Wales (later the Duke of Windsor) was a guest. Prior to his Wallis Simpson days, while on the Island he visited a Royal connection, Lady Emily (Seymour) Walker at Ragley in East Sooke. In 1927 the Prince once again visited with Lady Emily.

Film stars stayed at the hotel and enjoyed excursions on fish packers such as the Harriet E, on their way out to the twice-weekly lifts of the fishtraps. Emily Carr stayed at the hotel from time to time, and would perch on her campstool painting scenes on tree fungus, which she sold for 35 cents. The French Consul, stationed in Vancouver, visited his family connections, the Robillards, in 1927, and engaged in big game hunting (for cougar).

Excursions with packhorses would set out from the stables at the foot of the hill, sometimes bound for hunting, sometimes bound for the Harrison Trail and the cabin of the Alpine Club of Canada at Sheilds Lake. When the hotel burned in 1934, the stables were left, and eventually were developed into the Sooke River Hotel and Castle. Three of the historic pillars in the photo were salvaged later by the Sooke Region Historical Society and re-built at Macgregor Park.

Elida Peers

Historian, Sooke Region Museum

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria council recommends prioritizing housing for people in the area for at least a year

The motion passed unanimously during committee of the whole meeting

Sooke Bluffs staircase closed due to rot

District to consider replacement for ‘high risk’ staircase in fall

VicPD uses ‘less-lethal’ rounds to remove woman barricaded in stranger’s basement

The woman is believed to have broken into a dealership, attempting to steal a vehicle earlier in the evening

Vancouver Island MLA says too much on shoulders of RCMP

Reformed Police Act could look at spreading responsibility to other responders

Greater Victoria non-profit advocates for the use of psilocybin for terminal patients

North Saanich psychotherapist pushes for alternative treatment

STANDING TALL: Forestry workers meet the challenges, remain hopeful

A look at the forest sector in B.C. – and those hoping for the best – amid mill curtailments

Man suffers serious injuries in bear attack in remote area near Lillooet

It was deemed a defensive attack, no efforts were made to locate the animal

Parkinson SuperWalk goes virtual throughout B.C. due to COVID-19

People encouraged to walk around their neighbourhood, along community trails, through parks, forests

Missed rent payments because of COVID-19? You have until July 2021 to pay up

Each monthly instalment must be paid on the same date the rent is due

U.S.-Canada pandemic border restrictions extended into September

‘We will continue to keep our communities safe,’ says Public Safety Minister Bill Blair

578 British Columbians currently infected with COVID-19

Seventy-eight new cases confirmed in past 24 hours

WE Charity registers as lobbyist, lays off staff, looking to sell real estate

WE Charity said its financial position has been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic

Captive fawn seized from Island home

Valley resident charged and fined under the Wildlife Act

Bamfield residents, visitors pressure province as anniversary of fatal crash approaches

Letter-writing campaign makes ‘heartfelt, emotional pleas’ to improve road conditions

Most Read