Posts Tagged ‘the grande’

The Grande on Peterson Bay


dragrande now

Fifty-five years old, the Grande perches on the rocks overlooking Peterson Bay - and the entire south coast.

In the 1950′s an ambitious fellow named Len Dobinson decided to build a hotel on a large parcel of land he had bought from old ‘Doc’ Nichols a few years earlier. At the time, there was no electricity yet on Gabriola, and the hotel was built largely by hand and with chainsaws.  It was perched on a rocky bluff at the edge of the water with great views up and down the Strait of Georgia.  The rather unique design featured a woodframe building, but faced with vertical logs.  It was done without the kind of permitted and inspected regimen that builders face today.    Part of the work on the land included the creation of a tidal pool – a definite no-no in today’s world of shoreline protection.

Dobinson soon sold the building with about 80 acres of waterfront land, to Tom and Eva Shaw, who operated the ‘Grande Hotel’ for many years.  Old-timers will remember the beautiful old shuffleboard, and the jukebox that was full of old Elvis hits from the early ’60s.  Tom was not an especially good hotelier – gruff and unkempt most of the time, but his wife Eva made up for it.  She was a gregarious and cheerful woman who loved visitors, but she could not make up for Tom’s nasty attitude – and the fact that there was hardly a market for a hotel on Gabriola in the ’60s.   He slowly subdivided and sold the land to stay afloat.   The resulting roads he named after himself and his family, so we now have Thomas Place, Eva Road, Tamala Road and Kevan Drive.

During Shaw’s ownership of the Grande,  he was approached by a Hollywood movie producer who wanted to do a remake of  ‘The Hounds of the Baskervilles”.  Initially old Tom approved – allegedly for a tidy sum – but reneged on the deal after the shooting started.  He apparently did not like the behaviour of the show-biz folks.     Eventually – many years later and under new ownership – the Grande was used as a site for a bit in one of the ‘Scary Movie” series, and a mock lighthouse was temporarily erected on the property for the 30 second scene.  

Another infamous incident occurred at the old Grande, when a pair of bank robbers from the east chose to hide out at the old hotel with their suitcase-full of cash.   They checked in and then made a trip to Nanaimo – leaving their booty stashed in the room.   Eva Shaw ‘discovered’ the satchel of cash under the bed and reported it to police, who captured the crooks upon their return from town.   

Eventually Shaw went bankrupt and in the late ’80s the hotel and  remaining land was bought for around $350k  from the bank, by an easterner who promised great things.  He did some cosmetic renovation and turned the old 18 room derilict hotel into a private residence and then subdivided and sold off most of the remaining land.  He fancied himself as a bit of a financial dragon, and named the new road Dragon’s Lane.   Although the name has changed on the land, all the local fishermen still refer to the the deep water ‘off the Grande’.  

The place changed hands again, and today the property is the backdrop for many photographs, as the new owners have found a niche market, offering the hotel as a venue for weddings and other group events.  It is booked up for most summer weekends, as the  ever-changing signs and balloons at the corner of  Dragon’s Lane and North Road will attest.


peterson bay at low tide

Peterson Bay - shown here at low tide -is accessible via a trail at the end of Dragon's Lane.



06 2010