Saturday, November 5, 2011

Occupying Earth . . .

With the recent "Occupy" cities demonstrations gracing the news frequently, someone in Nanaimo, BC has had some fun.  They have created a site where one can witness aliens occupying earth.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

On the line . . .

Most of Canada's land mass and population is situated north of the 49th parallel of latitude.   With the exception of some of southern Ontario and the southernmost tip of Vancouver Island, most Canadians live on the northern side of that line and identify strongly with it as the boundary that separates Canada from the USA.

The Town of Ladysmith, BC straddles the 49th.  I'm not exactly sure where the line goes through town but a commemorative cairn located in front of the post office on 1st Avenue and Gatacre St mentions it.

To celebrate this geographic fact, the local high school varsity teams are called the "49er's" and the locally owned grocery store is called the 49th Parallel Grocery.

People sit on the steps of the Ladysmith Post Office to await the annual
Ladysmith Days parade.  The cairn commemorates the founding of the town.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The tail end and the tale ends . . . but not the trail

In the early part of the last century, Vancouver Island had several competing railroads.  Most of them ran from Victoria to Sidney however, two also ran tracks up Island.  Of those, only the Esquimalt & Nanaimo Rwy still exists.   It runs from Wharf Street in Victoria to Courtenay although it is only running sporadically now, having suspended passenger service since early 2011 due to track safety concerns. 

At first it may seem incongruous to find a CN caboose permanently
housed along the former CP Rail E&N Rwy station however,
CN Rail has an important place in the rail history of the Cowichan Valley.

It's main rival for passenger service and freight on the Island was the Canadian Northern (later renamed Canadian National or CN).  It's line ran through Victoria's "Western Communities" to Sooke and then to Duncan with a termination at Lake Cowichan.  Originally surveyed to extend to Port Alberni, it was never built beyond the Cowichan Valley.  Apart from it's rail bed being turned into the Trans-Canada Trail, the only visible reminder of the former CN Rail line on Vancouver Island is a retired CN caboose resting along the E&N behind the Duncan CP Rail Stations (Cowichan Valley Museum & Archives).

The Kinsol Trestle, rebuilt as part of the Trans-Canada Trail,
was built for the Canadian Northern Railway in 1920

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Black Gold . . .

Nanaimo was founded by the Hudson's Bay Company to exploit coal reserves discovered in the area.  On December 26, 1874, Nanaimo was incorporated as a City.  A timeline for Nanaimo is posted by the Nanaimo Daily News.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dominion Post Office . . .

From confederation in 1867 to the early part of the twentieth century, the federal Department of Public Works employed a "Chief Dominion Architect". It was the role of this position to design all federal government buildings within the "Office of the Dominion Architect".   Several notable architects were employed in this role, including Thomas Seaton Scott (1872 – 1881), Thomas Fuller (1881 – 1896) and David Ewart. During the latter's tenure (1896-1914), a very familiar style of post office was created.

Known as "Romanesque Revival"  these buildings belong to a  large group of recognizably similar buildings across western Canada, all of which were variants on a common theme rather than identical structures shaped from a single standard plan.

All were built of limestone and brick and incorporated a clock tower.   Most were replaced by "modern" post office buildings in the 1970's and many still exist and have been re-purposed.  The only such structure on Vancouver Island is the current City Hall in Duncan, BC.

Duncan, BC City Hall
Former Dominion Post Office built in 1914

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Putting wet stuff on the red stuff . . .

District of Oak Bay Fire Hall
1703 Monterey Avenue
Oak Bay (Victoria), BC

Built in 1938, the Oak Bay Fire Hall is a symmetrical, Tudor Revival style two-storey building with half timbering in the gables and a row of Tudor arched bays on the front fa├žade. It was designed by noted local architect, Percy Leonard James (1878-1970). 

The Tudor Revival style is commonly utilized for Oak Bay residences.  The use of this architectural style is  considered harmonious with its environment and is symbolic of Oak Bay.

It is situated next to the Oak Bay Police Department headquarters.

The District of Oak Bay, located adjacent to the City of Victoria on the southernmost tip of Vancouver Island was incorporated as a municipality on July 2, 1906.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Largest wooden trestle . . .

The Koksilah River Trestle, known locally as the Kinsol Trestle, was officially reopened July 28, 2011 after extensive renovation and rebuilding following an arson fire that destroyed a good portion of it. 

It was built by the Canadian Northern Pacific Railway (later part of CN Rail) and completed in 1920. It is the largest free-standing wooden trestle in the Commonwealth and one of the largest in the world. Built to cross the Koksilah River near Kinsol Station, it is 44m (144 ft) high and 188m (617 ft) long. The name Kinsol is a contraction of the name of the King Solomon Mine nearby. The trestle was last used by a train in 1979 and closed the next year.

With the reopening of the Kinsol Trestle, the Trans-Canada Trail is now complete between Sidney and Duncan, BC.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Round building . . .

Province of BC
Courthouse and Government Offices
238 Government St
Duncan, BC

The latest incarnation of the Provincial Court House and Government Offices in Duncan, BC was completed in 1970.  It was built where Duncan's Chinatown once stood.  Many of the former Chinatown buildings were moved south of town and are the nucleus today of Whippletree Junction.

The building was opened by Premier W.A.C. Bennett on October 21, 1970

Monday, July 25, 2011

Alone for eternity . . .

Chapman's Grave
Telegraph Road,
Cobble Hill, BC

I happened upon this grave a number of years ago.  I spotted it by chance in the corner of my eye as I was travelling a backroad near Cobble Hill BC. 
It is very unusual to find lone graves by the side of the road on Vancouver Island.

"William Richard CHAPMAN
Nov 23, 1866 - Nov 1, 1885"

Note: Thanks to Cecil b for providing me with this information from the Chapman Family:

"Richard was helping his father with haying, when the young boy was stricken with severe abdominal pains. There was not a doctor nearer than Ladysmith, and Richard died before help could be obtained.

As was the custom in those days, the grave was dug on the family homestead and a picket fence put around it. As the years went by, the grave became neglected and overgrown.

A Boy Scout troop made inquiries as to the origin of the lonely grave, and made it their project to rebuild the fence and paint it."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Another anniversary British Columbia . . .

On today's date, in 1871, BC became a full fledged province in the Dominion of Canada. No longer relegated to colonial status, the new province flourished and continues to do so today.

The Province of British Columbia Coat of Arms
In case anyone is confused, how could this be BC's 140th anniversary if we celebrated our 150th in 2008? The answer lies in history (sorry kids). In 1858, the British colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia amalgamated into the united colony of BC. Hence, 2008 was the sesquicentennial of that event. Then, in 1871, four years after Canada was founded, BC joined confederation. That was 140 years ago today.

Happy Anniversary (again)!

July 2010: antique car show on the grounds of the BC Legislature

The library wing of the BC Legislature

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Happy birthday Parks Canada

The world’s first national park service is the agency we know today as Parks Canada.  It was established in 1911 as the Dominion Parks Branch under the Department of the Interior.

In honour of National Parks Day today here is a picture of McLean Mill National Historic Site:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

No Lincoln Logs here . . .

Qualicum Beach, BC
This charming log home was built as a staff house in the 1930's at Eaglecrest.
In the early 1930s, Major General Alexander Duncan McRAE purchased 260 acres (1.1 km²) of land situated on an ocean front bluff near Qualicum Beach, BC. In 1934 he built a country home constructed of logs that measured 200 feet (60 m) long and 50 feet (15 m) wide. He called his estate Eaglecrest. The home was designed by Vancouver architect C.B.K. Van NORMAN. General McRAE also built staff homes and ancillary farm buildings at Eaglecrest. It is assumed that the staff homes and barn were also designed by architect Van NORMAN. 
This log barn at Eaglecrest housed General McRAE's herd of horses.
General McRAE subsequently took up farming with the purchase of 2,000 acres (8 km²) of additional land near Qualicum Beach. He employed about a hundred men in its operation for the 13 or 14 years that he owned it. He bred sheep and cattle. Princess (later Queen) Elizabeth and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, stayed here for a private visit in 1951 during their honeymoon. Unfortunately the main house, later known as Eaglecrest Lodge, burned to the ground in 1969. Today, only the barn and two staff homes remain as examples of the former rustic spledour of Eaglecrest.

General McRAE was a wealthy industrialist, having major holdings in forestry and mining. In 1926 he won a seat in Parliament as the MP for Vancouver North but subsequently lost his seat it in the 1930 election. Prime Minister R.B. BENNETT then appointed General McRAE to the Canadian Senate where he served until his death at age 71.  
Another staff house built at Eaglecrest.
Senator Major General A.D. McRAE was born in November 17, 1874 in Glencoe, ON and died June 26, 1946 in Ottawa, ON). He served in the Canadian Army during World War I.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Did you know . . .

. . .  that Vancouver Island has a rich history of Black pioneers?

Cairn commemorating the early Black pioneers of Vancouver Island
This cairn is located in the cemetery of Shady Creek United Church, 7180 East Saanich Rd, Saanichton, BC. It reads:

“Black Pioneers in British Columbia"

"In 1858, nearly 800 free Blacks left the oppressive racial conditions of San Francisco for a new life on Vancouver Island. Governor James Douglas had invited them here as promising settlers. Though still faced with intense discrimination, these pioneers enriched the political, religious and economic life of the colony. For example, Mifflin Gibbs became a prominent politician; Charles and Nancy Alexander initiated the Shady Creek Methodist Church; John Deas established a salmon cannery; and the group formed one of the earliest colonial militia units, the Victoria Pioneer Rifle Corps."

"Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada 1999”

I had the good fortune of meeting a descendent of Charles and Nancy Alexander while rambling through the Shady Creek United Church cemetery where this monument is located. She was a charming lady and very knowledgable regarding the Black history of BC.  Her ancestors founded this church.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor darkness . . .

I love post office buildings.  Every hamlet, village, town and city has one.  Or, should I say, had one.  With the advent of the internet and conversion of postal services into corporations, the small town post office is on the decline.  Hopefully I am able to document as many of them as I can before they are all gone the way of the dodo.
Post Office
Oak Lake, MB
Built in 1930
In the 1870's the Canadian Pacific Company began to build a railroad from coast to coast. By autumn of 1881, the crew had reached Flat Creek in western Manitoba. They spent the winter there and in the spring moved the camp two miles west where they built a station and siding.

The townsite of Oak Lake was born. The name was borrowed from the lake located six miles southwest of the town and a post office opened in the local general store in 1884. The settlement was incorporated as a town on July 15, 1907.  The orignal post office required replacement following a fire and the current brick structure was completed in 1930.

Monday, July 11, 2011

One of my fav's . . .

Parliament Buildings
Belleville Street, Victoria, BC
One of my favourite public buildings is the British Columbia Legislature. 

Known officially as BC’s “Parliament Buildings”, they were designed in 1892 by a 25-year-old English architect, Francis Mawson RATTENBURY.  Construction began in 1893 and every effort was made to use local materials and resources. The granite foundations were quarried on Nelson Island; site facades from Haddington Island stone; and local brick, lime and Douglas fir for the construction work.  The total cost was not to exceed $600,000 however, when the building was completed four years later the total cost came to $923,882.30.  

The building was formally opened by Lieutenant Governor T.R. McINNES on February 10, 1898. Between 1911 and 1915 RATTENBURY designed additions to the structure, including the magnificent library with its elegant marble-panelled rotunda.

One of a series of historial "mileposts" erected by the Province. 
This one details the history of the Parliament Buildings in Victoria.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Ol’whats-her name . . .

I have been fascinated by cemeteries and graveyards since I can remember. I love to explore amongst the headstones and see if I can follow the family linkages. One of the things that intrigues me the most is how we have changed culturally in the relatively short time that Canada has been a nation. And nothing illustrates that change more then how women were often treated on grave markers compared to now.
At least Lily Rogers has a first name on this headstone
St Michael & All Angels Anglican Church cemetery
4733 West Saanich Rd, Saanich (Victoria), BC
I have repeatedly come across head stones that refer to “So and So” and “his wife”. Sometimes she isn’t even mentioned by name although she is most certainly buried along side of him. In this age of enlightenment following the “women’s liberation” movement that occurred in the middle of the last century, it seems so strange that many women, wives, mothers, sisters and matriarchs of families did not have their own identity (and to this day do not if they were buried before the 1970's) .

We’ve come a long way baby . . .

Everything starts with a beginning . . .

Tolmie School
556 Boleskine Road,
Saanich (Victoria), British Columbia

I chose this building as my first entry because it was my first school. I attended grade one here in the 1960's.  

Located in the Victoria, BC suburb of Saanich, Tolmie School was designed by noted Victoria architect Harold Joseph Rous CULLIN (1875-1935). 

Built in 1912 by the prominent local contracting firm of Luney Brothers, Tolmie School is valued as an example of Edwardian era Classical Revival architecture, highly favoured for its civic symbolism during the early years of the twentieth century. The building was designed to convey a sense of dignity and academic achievement through the use of solid and symmetrical imposing architecture. The building was most recently renovated in 1982 to accommodate the offices of School District No 61 (Greater Victoria).
The school was named after Dr William Fraser TOLMIE, an early pioneer of the Victoria area. Trained as a Surgeon in his native Scotland, he abandoned his vocation upon immigrating to North America, preferring instead to be the manager of the Hudson's Bay Company's farming subsidiary, the Puget Sound Agricultural Company. He arrived in Fort Victoria in 1859.

Dr TOLMIE was elected to the House of Assembly of Vancouver Island as member for Victoria in January 1860. He was re-elected in 1863, and remained a member until Vancouver Island was annexed by the mainland colony of British Columbia in 1866. On 15 May 1865, the Vancouver Island Assembly passed the Common Schools Act, legislation that provided for free, non-sectarian public schools. Under the terms of the act, colonial schools were administered by a General Board of Education. Dr. TOLMIE served as chairman of the board from 1865 to 1867.

In 1859, TOLMIE and his family moved to Cloverdale Farm in Saanich. Their home was the first stone house ever built on Vancouver Island. His son, Dr Simon Fraser TOLMIE was a veterinarian and served as federal Minister of Agriculture (1919-1921, 1926) and Premier of British Columbia (1928-1933) Dr. William Fraser TOLMIE died at Cloverdale Farm on 8 December 1886.