The Terminal Hotel, built in 1912, is a handsome, very good example of vernacular Edwardian Commercial style. This restrained and symmetrical style was a reaction to the exuberant eclecticism of the Victoria architecture that preceded it. The building’s storefront has been modified over time, most extensively in 1951, but the upper story and essential form remains intact.
The Terminal Hotel is a tangible reminder of the social and economic importance of hotels in Nanaimo history. Like most mining communities, early Nanaimo had a large population of single, often transient, men. The City’s many hotels functioned as affordable living quarters and, in the saloons and restaurants typically located on the ground floor, as social centres. The Terminal Hotel has been in continuous use as a hotel or similar function for almost 100 years.
This hotel was built to replace two earlier structures on the site, the Oriental and the Identical. It was built for Mrs. Busby by the contractor J. Henry Walker, originally from Ontario, who also built the Rogers Block. The elaborate design provided by Toronto architect Harvey in 1912 does not seem to have been executed; the building as constructed is a relatively plain structure, brick faced, with simple corbelled detailing and segmental arched window openings. In 1951 the hotel was reconstructed to the plans of Thomas B. McArravy, and re-opened as the Terminal, named for its close proximity to the Canadian Pacific Railways Terminal.
The three-storey Terminal Hotel is very prominent on the street and is part of a continuous line of historic buildings on one of Nanaimo’s oldest commercial strips.