Learn about the golden age of tourism in the Alberni Valley at the Alberni Valley Museum’s current exhibit.
The exhibit, titled Vacation Land: Pleasurable Diversions in the Alberni Valley, runs until October and features antiques and old-time photographs from the lodges that once accommodated tourists during their vacation in the Valley from the period between about 1900 and 1960.
“Places like the Cameron Lake Chalet on the rail line and the Klitsa Lodge are two that we focus on,” said Jamie Morton, museum director. “These became destination resorts that people from outside would appreciate. They were often based on lakes, they often involved hiking, mountain climbing, hunting and fishing.”
Morton said these areas, including Great Central Lake, became a preferred area for the elite, not just from Vancouver Island, but western United States as well.
“A lot of Hollywood celebrities made this their destination of choice,” Morton said.
In addition to the resorts, Vacation Land focuses on transportation in the early 1900’s and how the creation of the railroad and road into the Valley affected a growth in tourism to the area.
“When the railway and road both arrived, which is what made [the Valley] accessible to the outside world, was the same time when people were looking at vacations,” Morton said. “Without the road and the railway nobody would have come.”
The exhibit also details what kinds of activities people did and how they amused themselves when vacationing in the Valley.
After several decades of a thriving tourism industry, the Valley suddenly begins to plateau as a vacation destination after the highway to the West Coast is built in the 1960’s.
“Rather than people coming here for a week or two, they would just stop here for a night on their way to the West Coast,” Morton said.
The area that had once been a high end tourist destination became a transit point on the way to someplace else, something we’re still fighting against today, Morton said.
“Transportation brought tourism and then transportation kind of bypasses us,” Morton said.
Inspiration for the exhibit stemmed from an Emily Carr painting of Mount Klitsa that was donated to the museum in the Fall of 2014. Morton said Sproat Lake was a favored destination for Carr.