Most of what is today the downtown centre of Campbell River was once owned and farmed by the Thulin family. They purchased the property from the Piercy family in 1904, and their first order of business was to construct and establish a large luxury Hotel. It was named the Willows Hotel for the English name of the Bay in which it was situated, and was located just off the beach where the Tidemark Theatre and Library are located today.
You may be thinking, “Beach? There is no beach across from the Tidemark Theatre.” And you would be right. In 1959 a construction project embarked on the filling of Willow Bay to create the Tyee Plaza. Completed in 1961, it created a new shopping and business district where before there was just ocean. But we are getting ahead of ourselves…
Shortly after the original Willows Hotel opened in 1904 it became clear to the Thulins that they would need to expand their operations and establish a separate building to accommodate their two very different types of clientele. The hotel catered to the wealthy sports fishermen who would travel to the area in pursuit of a record-breaking Tyee Salmon. But they also catered to the rough and tumble loggers who worked in the isolated logging camps that dotted the district. These two groups had very different ideas of what constituted a good time. A separate building, called the Annex, was constructed a short distance away from the main hotel to accommodate the loggers, and included a saloon for their enjoyment.
The Willows Hotel served as a community gathering place, hosting everything from parties and political events, to the earliest school lessons (until a separate school house could be built). Over the years, the Thulins expanded their business ventures, opening a general store and post office, building bigger and better versions of the Willows Hotel (there were three in total), and even establishing the first garage for the maintenance and repair of automobiles! (This was no coincidence as the Thulins were also the owners of the first car in the district…)
To find out more about how Campbell River’s downtown developed, be sure to download a Trivia Trek entry form and map and take a stroll downtown to find all of the “Our History” signs. You might be surprised by what you discover.
This is only a little piece of downtown’s story. To find out more:
- Check our Facebook Page from October 12-18, 2020
- See our Archival Photo Collection
- Check out the “Our History” signs throughout downtown and play Trivia Trek! Print the forms below:
For downtown week we are partnering with the Downtown Campbell River BIA for an additional chance to win! Print out this passport, get it stamped or initialed at 5 downtown businesses, then drop it off at French Creek Collective by November 9! Good luck!