On June 7, 2013, the new CFB Esquimalt Fire Hall opened its doors at the corner of Esquimalt Road and Sturdee Street.
This is an interesting piece of property with a history stretching back very likely to the 1860s.
Some evidence suggests that the first version of the popular Coach and Horses saloon and hotel was in operation as early as 1865, when a brief article in the British Colonist made mention of its existence near Admirals Road.
In 1890, then owner William Smith hired well-known architect and one-time mayor of Victoria, John Teague to design a replacement for the original one-storey structure.
His new pretty, two-storey inn also included a concert hall and quickly became a favourite gathering place for Royal Navy personnel and local community groups.
In 1903, Scottish-born Mary Simpson, purchased the Coach and Horses and astutely operated it with her son Hugh. In 1913, she sold the business to Joseph Hollet and Otto Nitze. In 1922, Mary Simpson passed away at age 62. The Daily Colonist noted in its obituary that she was “better known as Mother Simpson as she was ever ready to assist a friend.”
In 1928, the same year that Hans Kiesow became owner, tragedy hit. During the evening of Nov. 2, the hotel burned to the ground leaving only two chimneys standing.
Local architect Ralph Berrill was immediately hired and designed the new Coach and Horses in a California style. A year later it had become one of the best known drinking establishments in the region.
Thirteen years later in 1942, it was expropriated by the federal government and converted into wartime housing as Moresby House, living quarters for the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service.
With a shortage of housing after the Second World War, it was modified to accommodate 19 military families. Later it became barracks for the reserve unit HMCS Malahat but when they moved to new quarters in Victoria, it became the Chief and Petty Officers Mess.
The mess was there until 1994 when it re-located to the current facility. In 1995, the former Coach and Horses was torn down, leaving memories for those who remember its original role – a fine spot for some refreshment.
Greg Evans is Esquimalt Municipal Archives archivist.