This fine old building has just been restored as
Inn and Spa. The watercolour is from 1993.
In 2001 I wrote: "An old, unoccupied hotel building near the waterfront at Naramata on Okanagan Lake. I presume it is still standing--I haven't been there since October, 1993, when we spent a day in Naramata while on a mini-book tour with the just-published B.C. in Watercolour and I daubed this quickly onto a small piece of paper."
The Okanagan-Similkameen Heritage Inventory [Robert Hobson & Associates, 1984] described the Naramata Hotel as "the pre-eminent commercial heritage building in the Okanagan-Similkameen Regional District. It was once rivaled by the now-demolished Incola Hotel [on the Penticton waterfront], but it survives as the last of the lakefront hotels, associated with boat travel on Okanagan Lake."
J.M. Robinson, the hotel's builder, was the Okanagan's premier land developer, the founder of Peachland, Summerland and Naramata. His 1910 promotional brochure for Naramata stated, "On the triangle of land projecting into the lake is being constructed, under the supervision of a New York architect, a hotel with rest cure sanatarium annex." Features included cottages for rest cures, a bowling green, tennis courts, croquet grounds, a lacrosse field and a baseball diamond, appealing to an exclusive clientele, as:
"You would not wish to find yourself surrounded by garlic-eating foreign neighbours, with whom you had nothing in common socially. The class of people coming to Naramata is not of that type. They are of the very best Canadian stuff."
In the early 1980s, Bill Robinson, J.M.'s nephew, occupied the hotel as a private residence. It retained its large dining room, lobby with fireplace, ballroom, conservatory, billiards room, and 17 bedrooms [Hobson report]. The Mission Revival style was very popular for institutional buildings around the time of the First World War, as witnessed by the old residential school at St. Eugene's Mission.
See John Moore Robinson bio in British Columbia Historical News, Volume 23, Number 2, Spring 1990, pp. 26-7.
I would love to read stories from people who vacationed there, or at any of the other resort hotels in the Okanagan such as the Eldorado in Kelowna. I recall a friend, since deceased, talking about his honeymoon in the late 1940s at the Eldorado. The Hope-Princeton highway was incomplete and the logical way to get to the Okanagan was by train, via the Kettle Valley Railway which departed from downtown Vancouver around suppertime and traversed the incredibly scenic (but scary and rugged) Coquihalla Pass after dark, then arrived in Penticton early the following morning; I believe they hired a car in Penticton to get to Kelowna, but in the early days (say, before the 1930s), holidaymakers used the CPR's sternwheelers to move up and down the lake to communities between the two railheads at Penticton and Okanagan Landing near Vernon.
For me, the beach at Naramata and a set of tiny cottages nearby were the site of my earliest summer memories. A friend of my father's from the army, Grove Cluff, had settled on orchard land in Naramata after demobilization, taking advantage of the federal government's "VLA" (Veterans Land Administration) scheme, and grew fine cherry trees. The lifestyle of such orchardists and their children inthe 1950s in the Okanagan was brilliantly captured in the film My American Cousin.
Note from Susan Monaghan, Somerset, England: I was evacuated to Canada during the second World War for five years and spent two of them at the Robinsons' hotel when it was a small boarding school run by a Miss Simes and 'big Miss Robinson' and 'little Miss' (Dolly) Robinson. I have vivid memories of my time there from 1943 - 5 and have never quite got over the sadness of leaving it and returning to post-war England and unknown parents at the age of nine. I have always wanted to get back in touch with the others - Margaret and Wendy Amor, Alex Gordon, Gail Ireland and co.
2007 update from Susan Monaghan (née Pyke) : I am coming to Vancouver in the middle of April for two weeks visiting acouple of my wartime contacts and am hoping to go up to Naramata on my way to Kelowna via Penticton (where I stayed with the Boyle family) tosee the old place. I know they say 'never go back' but it is a strong wish. I shall probably be on my own. It would be good to meetany local historians interested in my story.