The Rod and Gun restaurant and pub is a prominet Parksville establishment, both in its central location and in its long history in the community’s development from settlement to city. Sitting on the Alberni Highway right in the middle of town, it is a place many necessarily pass by when going about their daily errands, and it is also a popular place to gather for drinks or meals during leisure time. As Parksville’s oldest business, the pub has played an important role in the city’s history––some residents even claim relatives who were born in the old hotel upstairs. Today, the business is a recognized historic site.
The restaurant and pub date back to 1898, but the Rod and Gun was built initially as a hotel, by John and Ann Hirst, in 1895. At the time, Parksville had only recently been declared an official settlement—the population in 1889 was reported at a mere 38 residents. Sadly, in 1897, just two years after the building’s construction, John Hirst died, at the young age of 34. His widow, Ann, soldiered on, continuing to run the business by herself and taking on extra work as the area’s postmisstress, all while raising her 5 young children. Ann continued to run the the Rod and Gun on her own until 1919, when she sold it to the Cook family.
The Rod and Gun’s name continues a British tradition in which a hotel or pub’s name consists of pairs of things, particularly things related to animals or arms, but this business’s name relates specifically to its early life. The “Rod and Gun” reflects the hotel’s use as a stopping point for the many hunters and fishermen passing through Parksville in the community’s early years. In those days, the front porch would often act as a place for hunters to hang their kills while they refreshed themselves with food and drink indoors. At this time, the cost of a night’s stay––including dinner and breakfast––was a mere $1.50.
As with many historic buildings, the Rod and Gun even has its own ghost stories––some say the upstairs, where the hotel used to be located, is haunted. Today, while the hotel portion of the business is now closed, the Rod and Gun continues to thrive as a social hub where locals and tourists alike enjoy food, drink, and live music.