Campaign to revitalize the Travellers Hotel begins

The Travellers Hotel Co-operative launches a campaign called "The Heart of Ladysmith Beats Here" for the 100-year-old vacant building.

Canada’s Historic Places states that “the large and highly detailed Travellers Hotel building speaks to the prosperity and optimism that existed in pre-war Ladysmith,” and now, there’s a new optimism growing around the Edwardian building.

The Travellers Hotel Co-operative has launched a campaign called “The Heart of Ladysmith Beats Here,” referring to the 100-year-old building that stands vacant and decaying on Ladysmith’s First Avenue.

Currently owned by Mainland residents, the building is in dire need of revitalization, according to a press release.

A proposal by Ladysmith resident Cathleen McMahon that the community come together and develop a co-operative has received growing support, and the process is continuing throughout the holiday season.

Why a co-operative?

“The opportunity to have the community own the building and be active in deciding what they want and need for entertainment, evening socialization and accommodations is vital,” McMahon said in the release. “Over the years, I have heard many stories about the Travellers Hotel and the joy it brought to the community. It seems that the place to start on revitalizing the downtown core would be to start at the beginning.”

The official name of the co-operative is the Ladysmith Hotel Co-operative. This allows it to continue to revitalize other buildings and keep the growth of the tourist and accommodations going.

Ladysmith is known for its “Heritage by the Sea,” but with a large portion of the heritage buildings boarded up and standing empty, it is hard to actually see what makes up the town’s namesake, McMahon notes in the press release.

McMahon moved to Ladysmith in 2008 and married a local resident just over a year and a half ago. She has become an active part of the community in a very short time.

“My husband Ryan and I decided when we moved here that this was it. This is the place where we are going to live our life, retire and hopefully be laid to rest, just like the generations before us,” she said.

“And if this is the place I’m going to live in for the rest of my life, then it better have everything I need to live a fulfilling adventure of music, art, theatre and culture.”

The plan for the hotel in its inception is to host live entertainment in a lounge setting with set fine dining food offerings.

The restaurant design team has developed a number of seasonal events, from CrabFest and OysterFest to SalmonFest and PrawnFest to showcase local seafood, and the bar would be stocked with the makings of local wineries and craft breweries.

“There are so many reasons for this to happen, too many to mention, but one of the best ones is to provide a place for singles to meet, business minds to converse, and our youth to have an alternative to what is available in our town for nightlife,” stated McMahon. “When my oldest daughter is approaching the legal drinking age, I would love to have a place to show her where people go to enjoy a glass of wine, good music and even better conversation.”

The hotel above the lounge would be home to 12 to 15 boutique rooms offering overnight visitors a place to lay their heads right on the main thoroughfare. The thought of people waking up on First Avenue to discover what Ladysmith has to offer is an exciting addition to an already growing downtown core.

Ladysmith has a multitude of personal service providers, massage therapists and estheticians that could be called upon to provide “In-room” services. The opportunity to showcase everything the town has to offer is unending.

“Many residents feel that the downtown of Ladysmith cannot survive as it stands, and they are right.” said McMahon. “In order for us to have a thriving community, we cannot just rely on ourselves.  An 8,700-person town cannot support 75-plus businesses. The Travellers Hotel alone would potentially bring over 10,000 people through annually to stay, enjoy and spend. It is not the complete answer, but it certainly is a great start.”

Tours of Vancouver Island would start at the hotel and pick up tourists from all other accommodation sites to take in the wineries and artisans throughout the Cowichan Valley, according to the press release.

The restoration of the building is going to take a year or more to complete, and the opening day would not be until 2015, which would give other local business opportunities a chance to plan their venture to coincide with the jump in tourist activity, noted McMahon.

Why the Travellers?

“Because I get the sense that the heart of Ladysmith beats there,” said McMahon. “And without a heart, nothing survives.”

Want to learn how you can help?

Click here for more details or contact Cathleen McMahon at