Campbell River, British Columbia
Museum at Campbell River

We welcome Thelma Silkens as one of our columnists, she will be writing about Campbell River's past and present,
as she works for the local museum and will be entertaining us with stories of days gone by and current offerings by the museum.


The Lilelana Pavilion was built in 1918. With its construction, Charles Thulin, 'the father of Campbell River,' filled yet another need for the growing community in which he and his family made their home. Charles and his brother Fred had built the area's first hotel in 1904. Rapidly acquiring additional land, Charles and his partners eventually owned a large amount of property, including all of what is now downtown Campbell River. Through their endeavours, the hotel was followed by a store, then a wharf, a post office, a larger hotel, a school and a hospital. Next came a social centre, the Lilelana Pavilion.

The Lilelana Pavilion

Neighbouring the Thulins' rather grand Willows Hotel, the Pavilion stood at the corner of the present St. Ann's Road and Shoppers Row. The building's long wall of windows looked out on beach and salt water, unlike the landfilled foreshore and busy intersection in front of the Bank of Commerce which now occupies the site.

Charles named the Pavilion for his three daughters, Lillie, Elin and Anna, who were aged 18, 24 and 25 respectively when the building opened. The "Misses Thulin" had been educated at private school in Victoria and now worked in their father's enterprises. As the Pavilion's hostesses, they presided over a continuing flow of social events.

Dance nights at the Pavilion drew participants from all directions, by rail from the large logging camps, by boat from outlying communities (even if it was stormy), by car, or by foot. Masquerades were very popular and creative costumes highly appreciated, leading to lengthy descriptions in the local paper.

The Pavilion had a soda fountain, and a large stone fireplace where burning logs provided warmth. Small round tables with chairs lined the edges of the excellent dance floor. There was an adjoining room which was sometimes occupied by children and babysitters.

People danced til the wee small hours of the morning to music by Sergeant Dawson, "late of the 67th Western Scots", and Pte. "Jock" Brunton, "late of the Scottish Horse in the South African campaign", or by the Royal Vancouver Island Orchestra of Courtenay, "the members of which are four of our returned soldiers," or by other groups known by such names as the Canary Club Orchestra, Moody's Orchestra, and Mrs. King's Orchestra among others.

After the 'wettest ever' New Year's Eve in 1939, members of the Happy Circle orchestra from Courtenay were marooned at Campbell River for several days owing to a washout on the Island Highway.

In 1927 the Northwestern, bound for Alaska, went on the rocks at Cape Mudge in a raging snowstorm. The rescued passengers were brought to the Willows Hotel for food and shelter, and to make their enforced stay more pleasant, a dance was arranged at the Lilelana Pavilion.

Entertainment in the Pavilion included picture shows, concerts and traveling lecturers. Many of the events held there raised funds for worthy causes. The Women's Auxiliary to Lourdes Hospital organized an annual bazaar, masquerade ball and sale of work. The Legion Ladies Auxiliary held whist drives and supporters of the cemetery garden held annual dances. Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst, a noted champion of women's rights, attracted a large crowd and sizeable amount of money when speaking for the Vancouver Island Council for Social Hygiene. During the second world war, many community organizations worked together to sponsor an Aid to Russia fundraising dance.

The Pavilion scene was not totally genteel. Drinking and rowdiness were common features of the dances, and scuffles often broke out as the night progressed. At a hospital benefit dance, two men had a heated argument which they forcefully resumed when leaving the building at 3:30 am. One man suddenly died of a broken blood vessel and was carried into the Pavilion. This fight made front page headlines in the Comox Argus, but the report of the dance in the social column did not mention the incident - it focused entirely on the party's successful aspects. The man's opponent, charged with manslaughter, was later acquitted.

As Campbell River's population grew, social activities began to disperse to other centres besides the Pavilion. The Campbellton Community Hall, built in 1925, was used for many activities. The Legion had a small hall, and another community hall was built in Willow Point.

The Lilelana Pavilion stood on the Campbell River waterfront for nearly 30 years, until it was demolished in early 1945. Only the big stone fireplace remained standing on an otherwise empty spot "for the longest time," an area resident recalls. People built fires in it and held wiener roasts. Eventually the Dubeau Block, one of Campbell River's earliest Art Deco buildings, was constructed on the site. Campbell River was then at the beginning of a surge of development. New buildings, it was said, appeared overnight, like mushrooms.

Ownership of the Pavilion, along with the Willows Hotel, had passed from the Thulins to the Isaac family in 1927, and to the Dubeaus in 1944. The melodic name, however, invariably links the Lilelana Pavilion with the three young women who made it such a success in its early years: the "Misses Thulin," Lillie, Elin and Anna.

Visit the museum

back to the index