By KIT WILMOT
When you pass the 7-Eleven on the Island Highway in Ladysmith, you may not realize that you’ve passed a block that was once teeming with history and character. This was the home of Ladysmith’s landmark hotel, the Abbotsford. After mining coal for several years and running a men’s clothing shop, in 1894 Mr. A. J. McMurtrie built the Abbotsford Hotel in North Wellington, just north of Nanaimo, at a cost of $18,000. McMurtie was mayor of Wellington 1898 -1899.
In 1900, when the coal mines were closing, the hotel was cut into sections, loaded onto rail flat cars, taken to Oyster Bay and re-assembled on the Esplanade at the bottom of Gatacre Street; a very advantageous location just across the highway from the railway station. At the time, it was large, being able to accommodate 50 people; there was a sample room for salesmen to display their wares; Mrs. McMurtrie did the cooking and he looked after the bar With the miners’ strike of 1912-14, the downturn in the economy and the closure of Extension mine in 1931, many people left the area and McMurtrie was forced to close the hotel; in 1936 he died and it became the property of the City for unpaid taxes.
In 1936 Comox Logging and Railway Company bought it as a boarding house for its employees moving into the area to start logging operations; it was closed in 1958 when there were only ten people living there. It was demolished in 1963.
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