Sunday, May 5, 2019

Chemainus, BC ~ Heritage Murals

Chemainus, BC is a small town on the east coast of Vancouver Island that sits between Nanaimo and Victoria.  Its claim to fame has to be the 44 outdoor murals that are seen all over town sharing the rich cultural history of the town.

Early logging town
Chemainus was originally founded as a logging town in 1858 and still considers the forestry industry its main one but in the early 1980’s the big mill shut down and the town was facing the recession than many others at that time did. 

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The murals were a way to hopefully attract tourism and it worked.  The government grants helped and the talented artists worked their way around town, covering sides of buildings that would tell the story of some of the early days.

Chemainus First Nations
Chemainus is the home of the Original First Nations and the name comes from a shaman and prophet “Tsa-meean-is” meaning “broken chest”.  The legend says that he overcame a large wound in his chest to become a chief. 
Logging with steer and manpower
The Chinese were there and worked in “bull gangs” in the forestry taking large logs to the boats then later also worked to build the railway.  Perhaps the "bull gang" name derived from use of cattle but the dictionary definition is "a crew of unskilled laborers".

Memories of a Chinese Boy
The Chinese, Japanese and East Indians blended their cultures with the Scots and Germans working in the mines, forests and fishing.  In the 1880’s the railway was built and by the 1920’s the population grew to 600. 

Temporary housing for road builders 1912
This mural shows temporary housing for the work crews that came to build the roads in 1912.  The reminds me of a summer cabin my dad built in a logging camp in Fountain Valley one summer so we could spend our holidays with him.

First school house 1883
The school was built for grades 1-8 with one teacher in 1883 who taught all eight school age children of the town.  It was moved to be a private home in 1928 but has been saved by the Historical Society before demolition was to happen and moved back to its original location.  The oldest building of the area still has the original floor and is open for visits on weekends.

Chemainus Hospital 
The mural on the Chemainus Medical Clinic shows the hospital in 1902 and depicts actual people who were staff or residents.  Many of the murals do the same for those who were part of the history.

Telephone Company circa 1915
This mural shows two ladies who worked for the telephone company and one of them is the great grandmother of a friend.This makes things quite personal for those whose ancestors were part of the history of this interesting town and shown on the murals.

Waterfall Park
The downtown area, which was not developed until after WW2 leads us to the Waterfall Park.  The park is part of the original mill’s manager’s house and also offered access to the lumber yard which is shown in the entrance mural. The manager’s house was torn down in 1952 and the area has since become a very inviting park for the young and old.

HMS Reindeer 1869

I cannot possibly show all of them but a display of Chemainus murals would not be complete without one of the early ships that passed through the Stewart Channel or visited the shores of Chemainus.

Chemainus now has a population of 3900 people living within 4.02 km2 (1.55 sq. mi), a small town that offers plenty of sights, activities and attractions here and in the area. 


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