The Commercial 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. As affordable housing alternatives, hotels functioned as living quarters and, in the saloons and restaurants typically located on the ground floor, as social centres.
Associated with Nanaimo’s earliest commercial development, the Commercial Hotel has operated continuously in Nanaimo since 1875. The first Commercial Hotel was located on the adjacent corner. In 1913, this new structure was built as an addition and the original hotel was eventually torn down.
Designed by architects Breseman and Durfee, who also designed Victoria’s First Congregational Church and St. James Hotel, the Commercial Hotel is a very good example of the Edwardian Commercial style and features the simplicity and overall restrained appearance typical of this style. Despite some alterations, much of the building’s original character is intact, including the brick facing, projecting metal cornices and storefront piers.