Heritage Register
James Bay

606 Douglas Street
Criterion Hotel; St Mary's Priory Guest House; Glenshiel Inn; The Glenshiel

Built 1909; 1912; 1925; 1926; 1957-58
Heritage-Registered/Commercial, now Apartment

For: L.E. Gooding

Architects: D.C. Frame (1909); J.S.D. Taylor (1912); Percy Fox (1925); Percy Fox (1926); John DiCastri (1957-58)

Builder: Westholm Lumber Co

606 Douglas


One of Victoria’s landmark buildings, the Glenshiel celebrated its centenary in 2008, although construction did not begin until 1909. It is a three-storey Edwardian Italianate brick and stucco structure with two front façades separated by a wide entry and a recessed light court which extends halfway between the two sections. The original left façade built in 1909 is wider and stands proud of the right. It has paired windows on either side of central balconies on the second and third floors. It was added to in 1912. The recessed right façade built in 1925 has small, inaccessable central balconies on all three floors. In 1926 a large addition was built at the rear of the original building, making a total of three shallow bays on the left side. In 1957-58 a dining room extension was added to the first floor on the left front and along the left side. This extension creates a wide balcony which meets with the original balcony in front of the middle bay. The balcony has iron railings on the newer section meeting the original wooden balustrade.

There are modillions and dentils in the cornices all around the building, and stuccoed vestigial pilasters with capitals on all corners. A wide dentillated belt course separates the main floor from the second floor. The dark reddish-brown brick which covers the main floor on all sides is studded with Arts & Crafts-style clinker bricks of varying sizes from small to multiples of melded bricks. Other Arts & Crafts features are the diamond panes of the upper sash in the second and third floor windows, again all around the building. Substantial iron fire escapes are located on the rear right sides of both buildings. This beautiful building is now visible from all sides as it backs onto the parking lot of the Royal BC Museum.


It was built as a hotel by owner L.E. Gooding from Oakland, California. It was first named The Criterion, catering to the flourishing tourist trade which had spurred the construction of the nearby Empress Hotel in 1908. Alex J.C. McDermott was the first proprietor of The Criterion, although he was not the original owner, and this perhaps accounts for a Scottish ambience that various owners and managers have maintained to this day.


By 1912 Jean Mollison was the proprietor, with Fred Cancellor as manager and the hotel had been re-named Glenshiel Inn. The name is thought to be derived from “The Shiel” which is a river running down the glen where an historic Scottish battle took place between the Jacobites and the English in 1719. Cancellor was a member of the Active Militia and went overseas with the Canadian Expeditionary Force during WWI in 1915.

Mrs H.J. Wood was the manager of the hotel from 1919-25. Mrs G.H. Allen then took over and remained in charge until c.1931. The military connection resumed in 1932 with joint managers Capt. Basil Breton and Capt. Oswald Cox. The story goes that these gentlemen were so intent on preserving the “Scottishness” of the inn that they would hire only red-headed young women for work in the restaurant. A photograph from 1932, advertising the hotel, shows “The original Glenshiel redheads.” This circumstance may have been coincidental but the managers used it as good promotion.

With a basic rate of $3 day (in 1921) the Glenshiel was an affordable alternative to the much grander Empress Hotel and offered a home-like atmosphere with easy access to the harbour and Beacon Hill Park. It was especially popular with ex-patriates from India and other parts of what was then the British Empire. A treasured memento from the past, on display in the lobby, is a page from the hotel register from 1936, which was discovered during renovations in the 1990s.

In 1946 the hotel was acquired by the Society for the Love of Jesus, a religious order. Re-named as St Mary’s Priory Guest House, it continued to operate as a hotel as well as offering permanent residences for “Ladies and retired Professional Gentlemen”. Applicants were assured of “Graduate nurses on duty.” Many of the growing number of permanent residents were veterans of both world wars.

The late writer and columnist Arthur Mayse remembered that the hotel was the epitome of grace and charm during these years, with the nuns being the kindest of hosts, especially if guests included children. The furniture was impressive and the bathtub “magnificent… on top of a three-step dias.”

By 1953 the name of the hotel had reverted to The Glenshiel and a little later it was offering a “modern coffee bar” as well as catering for weddings and banquets. During this time the hotel became a popular gathering place for artists, among them Toni Onley, Max Maynard, and Jack Shadbolt. Maynard later lived at the Glenshiel and rented an extra room as a studio for a few years before his death in 1982.

In 1980, when Arthur Mayse wrote his tribute, the building was in danger of being demolished. It was acquired by the provincial government in 1972, and, while it continued as both a hotel and seniors’ residence for several more years, by 1980 the need for upgrading was such that the government considered closure and demolition. A successful fight against this was spear-headed by residents at The Glenshiel. Some essential work was done on the building that year, with a major renovation programme following in 1982. The official opening of the newly restored Glenshiel, as a residence for senior citizens, was held on September 19, 1983. More upgrading and heritage restoration work was done in 1996-97.

About this time the operation of the facility was handed over to the Glenshiel Housing Society. Further improvements since then include the installation of a larger elevator. Another extensive renovation was done in 2008 and the Hallmark Society recognized the heritage restoration work of the society with an award for the exterior painting.

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