Torn down Patricia Hotel remembered by Nanaimo historians

By Ian Holmes
July 31, 2018 - 5:44pm

Hundreds of people lined Haliburton St. in the late 1880's to view and bet on horse racing. The former Patricia Hotel is located in the upper right hand corner.Submitted photo

A recently flattened Patricia Hotel on Haliburton St. It opened in 1880, serving as favourite bar and lodging for local coal miners. Angie Pebernat

The modern day Patricia Hotel prior to being torn down.Google

NANAIMO — Local historians are recounting the significance of a demolished landmark dating back to Nanaimo's horse and buggy era.

The Patricia Hotel on Haliburton St., which opened in 1880 and was originally known as the Dew Drop Inn, was reduced to a pile of rubble Monday.

The property is up for sale awaiting redevelopment.

Author Glen Mofford, who recently moved to Nanaimo and is currently writing a book profiling the city's historical saloon-style bars told NanaimoNewsNOW the Dew Drop Inn became an immediate community focal point.

“There were rooms upstairs and down at the street level was the saloon, and the saloon of course was the big money-maker, especially on Saturday nights, that place was hopping.”

Mofford said the Dew Drop Inn's founder wanted to cash in on coal miners who worked in several local operations. Mofford said the hotel was a popular and important gathering place for working men.

“It was a place to find out tips about other jobs, it was a place to cash your paycheque, it was a place to make good with your boss,” Mofford said. “This was long before TV and radio, so you'd get your news there.”

Mofford said the hotel's second floor was originally a rooming house before the space transitioned to a hotel. He said the building was re-branded to the Patricia Hotel in 1916.

He said while many people may have a negative view of what the building became as its condition deteriorated, he stressed the Patricia long served as a respected, upscale business.

“These great old places are burning down or closing and sitting empty, times are changing and this is the past now.”

Nanaimo's Jan Peterson, who has referenced the Patricia Hotel in several books, said the hotel's doorstep was once home to high-stakes horse racing in the late 1800s. She said a straight as an arrow and unpaved Haliburton St. made for ideal conditions.

“Horse racing was a huge activity at that time, people came from all over to watch the horses and bet on them.”

Peterson said people crammed the hotel's balcony to judge the spectacle. She said hundreds of dollars in prize money drew people from as far as Portland, Oregon to resource-rich Nanaimo.

The city's first bowling alley was located at the Patricia Hotel, which anchored a bustling street with many small miner cabins nearby, Peterson said.

She wondered what new memories will fill the void of a place loaded with history.

“It's sad to see isn't it? It's just the passing of time, we move on and who knows what will be there next.”

The nearly half-acre Patricia hotel site at 525 Haliburton St. is listed for sale for $649,000.


[email protected]

On Twitter: @reporterholmes

Man seriously injured after crash closes highway in south Nanaimo