Couple’s love of Oak Bay Beach Hotel leads to purchase of strata unit

Couple’s love of Oak Bay Beach Hotel leads to purchase of strata unit

The best of both worlds in hotel condo

  • Dec. 11, 2019 7:30 a.m.

– Story by Devon MacKenzie Photography by Don Denton

An iconic piece of waterfront real estate, the Oak Bay Beach Hotel, has adorned the shoreline since 1927 when it was built by Major William J. Merston on the designs of architect P. Leonard James.

Since then, it burnt down and was promptly re-built (1930) and it was sold in 1944 to Norma Macdonald, an avid antique collector and dealer who outfitted the Victorian hotel with many priceless antiques and renovated one suite of rooms into a small cocktail lounge, the Snug, in 1954.

The next phase of change was initiated when the hotel was purchased by Bruce Walker and Glenn Anderson, two businessmen from Winnipeg in 1972, and then purchased again by Bruce’s son Kevin and his wife Shawna (1995). It was during Kevin and Shawna’s ownership and subsequent re-development of the hotel that Hugh and Janice Finlayson first became interested in owning a piece of Oak Bay history. But it certainly wasn’t their first experience in the hotel.

When Hugh was in his 20s, early in his management career, he was transferred to Victoria.

“After a while I was transferred back to the Vancouver area and decided to return to school. When I would come back to visit friends in Victoria, I would stay at the hotel,” he explains, sitting in the couple’s bright, two-bedroom condo on the fourth floor of the hotel.

“We started to come to the hotel when we first met, and eventually we were married here, in the old hotel,” Janice adds.

The Finlaysons, who split their time between Oak Bay and their home in False Creek, enjoy ownership of one of the 20 strata residences in the Oak Bay Beach Hotel. Like the guests who can book in to any of the hotel’s 100 rooms, the Finlaysons enjoy full use of its amenities, services and nearby community.

“The community is in a historical and picturesque seaside neighbourhood like no other in the province, or country, for that matter. With the shops, restaurants and other services, Oak Bay is an ideal walkable, welcoming place to live,” says Janice.

“The second part of community is the Oak Bay Beach Hotel community,” adds Hugh. “The amenities, including the seaside pools and spa, the fitness centre, the car service and the iconic Snug Pub, as well as the services such as housekeeping and maintenance, make living easy and dependable. You have what you need when you need it.”

However, both Hugh and Janice agree that the most important part of their experience is the staff who work at the hotel.

“Their high standards of customer service, energy and commitment are what complete the overall hotel living experience,” Hugh notes.

The couple, who were both senior human resources executives in their careers, say they are “at a different phase in their lives” now. Among their new pursuits, Hugh is an author and a faculty member at BCIT. They enjoy coming to their residence in Victoria for a change of pace from Vancouver whenever they can.

Because Hugh and Janice were some of the first buyers into the re-development project, they were able to make custom-designed choices in their unit, including a vaulted, exposed western red cedar beam ceiling by Island Precision Architectural Woodwork in the living room.

“I think the ceiling really adds a whole other dimension to the space,” says Janice, noting that the ceiling in the original plans was a standard nine-foot height.

The large, bright living room features floor-to-ceiling windows that pull the colours of the season inside and make the unit seem airy no matter the time of the year.

“We get a four-season feel here because you can see it all: the greenery, the ocean and the sky,” says Janice. “In the summer it’s bright and airy, in the fall we get the amazing colour contrasts from the changing trees, and in the winter we still have light all day and we get to enjoy some beautiful sunsets.”

At 1,180 square feet, the condo is a perfect size for the couple, who use the second bedroom as an office space and guest room.

“We customized that room with built-in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and a library ladder. Hugh is an avid reader so we have lots of space for his books,” explains Janice.

Aside from the amazing view of Oak Bay Marina and Willows Beach, the real showstopper in the office is the LGM double-function transforming system by Clei. It’s a multi-functional revolving wall bed. On one side, it features 35 linear feet of shelving and a five-foot-long desk, and a fold-out queen-size bed frame and mattress on the other.

“This was a real find,” Janice says. “We knew we still wanted a functional office space, so we didn’t want a typical wall bed. This was the perfect solution.”

To add their own flair to the modern kitchen, the couple chose custom cabinets and durable Caesarstone countertops (quartz aggregate blended with pigment and polymer resin), and in the living room, they chose a custom concrete surround fireplace by Solus Decor out of Vancouver.

In the dining room, a live-edge maple table by Matthieu Leblanc of Reclaimed Wood Creations Vancouver mimics the colours in the treeline outside the windows, tying it all together.

“We love spending time here. It’s really a place where we can unwind and enjoy the view and everything the hotel has to offer,” says Janice. “I really enjoy the social aspect of living in a hotel. You can be as social as you want or you have all the privacy you want in your own condo. There’s always something going on. We definitely feel at home here.”

For more information on the Oak Bay Beach Hotel, check their website here.

historyhomeHome and GardenReal estate

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

As part of Earth Week, Ucluelet Rotary Club member Ryan Wackett will be handing out free Clean Up Packages with grabber picker up tools at his shop Westcoast Connect from April 10 to 23. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Ucluelet Rotary honours Earth Day with week long community clean up

“Let’s spring into action and clean up our beautiful communities!”

Hwy. 4 was shut down in both directions for 10 hours on March 23 as a rock bluff was blasted as part of Kennedy Hill’s ongoing construction. Commuters can expect five more 10 hour closures on five consecutive Wednesdays beginning April 28. (Photo courtesy of Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Five 10-hour closures coming to Hwy. 4 between Port Alberni and Tofino-Ucluelet

Closures needed for rock blasting as part of the Kennedy Hill Safety Improvement project.

B.C. Centre for Disease Control maps showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 4-10. (BCCDC image)
Parksville-Qualicum passes Nanaimo in new COVID-19 cases

Greater Victoria had more new cases than any other Island area: B.C. Centre for Disease Control

A screenshot from a Nuu-chah-nulth healing song and performance created in collaboration between Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso. (Screenshot from YouTube)
WATCH: Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation brothers produce COVID-19 healing song and performance

Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso share dance and inspiration.

Ucluelet locals Rachael, Caroline and Tom enjoy refreshments on a sunny Monday afternoon at a picnic table dining area set up by the District of Ucluelet to help residents and visitors support local businesses while staying outside. (Andrew Bailey photo)
Ucluelet chamber launches bingo contest to support local restaurants

Four Ucluelet Co-op shopping sprees are up for grabs in #Ukee2go competition.

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: B.C. lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

Photo by Metro Creative Connection
New campgrounds coming to B.C. parks as part of $82M provincial boost

This season alone, 185 campsites are being added to provincial parks, says Minister of Environment and Climate Change

The Nanaimo Clippers’ game against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs slated for Thursday, April 15, has been postponed due to a “potential positive COVID-19 test result,” says the BCHL. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo Clippers COVID-19 test negative, team can practise and play

Junior A hockey team had suspended activities the day before out of ‘abundance of caution’

Paper Excellence took over Catalyst Paper operations in B.C. in 2018. (Paper Excellence photo)
The plane blasted through an airport fence and down a hill, before stopping before a cement barrier on Highway 5A, right in front of a school bus. Photo submitted.
Student pilot crashes plane onto Highway 5A almost hitting school bus

Aircraft hit pavement right in front of school bus

Eight-year-old Piper and her family were raising money to help Guinevere, the bearded dragon, get a gynecological surgery. Sadly, the reptile didn’t survive the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Lizard fails to survive surgery, GoFundMe dollars help Langley family offset medical bills

Guinevere, a pet bearded dragon, underwent an ovariectomy on Tuesday

A driver stopped by Saanich police following a road rage incident on April 15 was found to be impaired, in violation of a license restriction and in a damaged vehicle. They received a 90-day driving prohibition and a 30-day vehicle impound. (Saanich Police Traffic Safety Unit/Twitter)
Road rager fails breathalyzer on busy B.C. highway in vehicle he shouldn’t be driving

Saanich police say man was operating vehicle without required ignition lock

The family of Iris McNeil, shown here with members of her family, has launched a petition to deny parole for the man who murdered McNeil in 1997. (Family photo)
Family fights killer’s release from Vancouver Island prison

Shortreed serving an indeterminate sentence at William Head Institution

Most Read