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 travelled to the area in pursuit of catching a record-breaking Tyee Salmon. But the Hotel also catered to the rough and tumble loggers who worked in the isolated logging camps that dotted the district and who would come into “town” on their days off. 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 boisterous and often rowdy 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 in 1912). 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. 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.
This is only a little piece of downtown’s story. To find out more: