The Neumann Collection


Riverside Hotel in Courtenay, B.C.

Posted by neumann32044 on September 30, 2013 at 12:05 AM

This platter was the biggest find from the 2013 FVACC show.  Not because it is physically the largest piece that I purchased, but because its the only one that I hadn't had heard of it before.  Even the collection at the Royal BC Museum doesn't have one, but the collection there is just one person's collection that was bequeathed to it, or so I've been told.  A preliminary examination was pretty self explanatory where the platter came from, and it was made by John Maddock & Sons and destributed by Frederick Buscombe & Co. Ltd. 

You can see why I had no difficulty deciding that this is a BC piece.

The hotel was constructed in 1889-90 and had an interesting history linked to the logging industry in the Comox Valley.  The builder and first owner was a fellow named John Grant.  In 1893, a cook at the Riverside was involved in a court case that pitted rival newspapers against each other over the outcome.  The cook, Robert Gilbert, was sentenced to thirty days in a Nanaimo prison for stealing a can of beans in a case that would be known as the "Gilbert-Bean Case".  By 1904, the hotel was being run by Thomas Foster:

The Riverside Hotel in 1905.  Obviously taken in winter, you can easily see the decorative
embellismentson the porch supports and the siding on the upper floor.

This postcard view likely comes from the early teens, given the presence of the hotel's bus.

An ad from the 1909 edition of the Vancouve Island Directory.

The photograph that appeared in the ad, but much clearer!

The next owner, who took over the hotel sometime in the mid-teens (the directories were inconsistent) was Otto Fechner.  He had a habit of advancing money to loggers because they were only paid when they quit, rather than a regular paycheque.  As a result of the outstanding debt, the manager of the logging company instituted monthly pay for the loggers.  The first cheque that he cut was to the RIverside, and had to withould $5,000 to $6,000 to cover the outstanding debt.

The Riverside Hotel ca. 1920.  Sometime in the previos decade the hotel received an extensive renovation and expansion.  The cafe was on the ground level of the hotel, along with a pub with separate entrences for women and men.

In 1920, Richard Dixon took over the hotel.  An American, he worked as a donkey engineer (steam-powered winch) before 1914, and then as the engineer of the Three-Spot Locamotive.  He hired his old brakeman J.N. "Buster" Brown Sr. to work as the bartender.  Buster's son clamed that, "He got more in tips from the sawdust floor than wages".  The hotel bar attracted a lot of loggers because it stood in the middle of town right next to Comox Logging's main rail line: "We'd jump off the train at Courtenay and run up to the Riverside for a beer - it was only twenty steps to the Riverside.  We'd go in for a beer and come out in time to get on the last empty flatcar [of sixty]!"

Hotel stationary from 1929, showing that Dixon was still the proprieter a decade after taking over the Riverside.

The RIverside, likely by the late thirties or forties.  At this point, it had been "modernized" with the removal of the embellishments from the front verandah, as well as having the verandah partially built in on the sides.  The hotel was also covered with a layer of stucco.  This postcard view makes it easier to see the separate entrances for men and women.

From everything that I read, the popularity of the hotel didn't seem to have waned over time.  The bar still attracted the loggers, and the curved wall in front of the building was a regular hangout for old timers.  Sadly, in 1969, the hotel burned down.


Mackie, R. S. (1995). The Wilderness Profound: Victorian Life on the Gulf of Georgia. Victoria: Sono Nis Press.

Mackie, R. S. (2000). Island Timber. Victoria: Sono Nis Press.

Mackie, R. S. (2009). Mountain Timber. Victoria: Sono Nis Press.



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