Blog on Chemainus British Columbia – My Top 30 Picks

Chemainus British Columbia

Chemainus is located south of Nanaimo, and one hour north of Victoria on Trans-Canada Highway.

The name Chemainus comes from the native shaman and prophet Tsa-meeun-is (Broken Chest). Legend says that the man survived a massive wound in his chest to become a powerful chief.

Founded as a logging town in 1858, Chemainus has been tied to the forestry industry throughout its history. In the 1980s, realizing the slumping lumber industry could be devastating to the beautiful seaside community, a program was initiated to attract tourists to Chemainus. Artists began to paint murals depicting the town’s rich history on the walls of businesses and other buildings. Chemainus is now the world’s largest outdoor art gallery. Colorful murals fill every available wall in town while documenting local history in fascinating detail.

The Chemainus Murals have inspired communities throughout the world to explore their roots, to beautify their towns, and instill pride.  Using the Chemainus model, some communities have used the mural concept to develop their own revitalization for stronger economic development.

Heritage Square is a meeting place for all people.

Photos Chemainus, British Columbia
In 1862, the first Chemainus Saw Mill was powered by a fifty-foot waterfall. This energy turned a wooden wheel forty-five feet in diameter to which was attached a series of smaller wheels, chains and gears. The combination drove a vertical saw used to produce spars and cants for export.
Photos Chemainus, British Columbia
Three Generations Sculpture by Sandy Clark on Legion Street. – Al and Marg Johnson of Chemainus commissioned the creation of these fiberglass figures. The backdrop was painted at a later date. Al and Marg’s daughters donated the sculptures and backdrop to the Chemainus Festival of Murals Society after the deaths of their parents. It is a reminder that much dedication, community spirit, hard work and love made Chemainus “The Little Town That Did”.
Photos Chemainus, British Columbia
The Company Store is a 10 x 8-meter mural on Waterwheel Crescent. It was painted by Dan Sawatzky in 1983. Using an oval format, this mural shows an interior depiction of the Victoria Lumber & Manufacturing Co. Ltd. store, circa 1917. The artist recreated the deep perspective of the colorfully-laden shelves from old photographs. D.A. Gatus was the store manager. He is seen standing in the mid-ground. Ann Porter worked as a clerk, and is pictured on the left behind the counter. The V L & M Co. Ltd. used one of the first known credit card systems in the store. The purchaser would pay for the goods with coupons. In turn, the store would receive credit for the same from the company, which would deduct the amount from their employee’s pay check. The name “Victoria Lumber & Manufacturing Co. Ltd.”, and its trademark, the letter “V” in a diamond, became known throughout the world.
Photos Chemainus, British Columbia
Chemainus 1891 is a 16.4 x 3.5-meter mural on Mill Street painted by artist Isaac MacIagan in 1983. Passenger cars of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway (E&N) steam their way across this scene of the settlement at Horseshoe Bay in 1891. The predominant center road is present-day Mill Street.
Photos Chemainus, British Columbia
Maple Lane Café
Photos Chemainus, British Columbia
Patriotic feelings ran high as many men from Chemainus and area joined up soon after war was declared. By the end of September 1914, the mill had closed due to the war’s impact on shipping. The connection to the land the young soldiers had labored so hard to tame was severed. They left behind the fields and forest, the homesteads and the growing village, the families and elders, who would have to carry on. By the end of 1915, more than 15 percent of the local population had gone off to this bitter war; many would not return.
Photos Chemainus, British Columbia
House with turret
Photos Chemainus, British Columbia
A huge, foreshortened iron horse steams and belches dark smoke as it leaps out of its frame and almost off the wall of Dan Sawatzky’s former home and studio on Alder Street. The subject is a working engine operating in the Chemainus area early in the 20th century. Engineer Sam Alexander operated the No. 3 Climax Engine as it hauled logs along the rails of the Chemainus Valley. The E&N Railway was completed in 1886, although working trains had been a familiar sight in the community for several years. The larger engines plied the rails through the hills and the valleys of the E&N land belt, from which the Victoria Lumber & Manufacturing Co. Ltd. drew a great deal of its timber. Smaller, more compact engines worked nearer to and at the mill, shunting timber and finished products to where they were needed.
Photos Chemainus, British Columbia
Chemainus
Photos Chemainus, British Columbia
New Image Fitness Studio
Photos Chemainus, British Columbia
Logging with Oxen is an 18.4 x 3.7-meter mural at Waterwheel Park. It was painted by Harold Lyon in 1983. Around 1898, oxen were the main form of power in logging where good timber was available. Large, well-equipped outfits used twenty to twenty-four oxen. These were divided into two teams: one drawing the logs from the bush to the road, while the other and stronger team was employed in skidding the logs to the water. Since the ox’s hoof has a thin shell, the oxen were carefully shod with thin, half-moon shaped iron shoes.
Photos Chemainus, British Columbia
Mural on Chemainus Harbour
Photos Chemainus, British Columbia
Chemainus Harbour
Photos Chemainus, British Columbia
The Spirit of Chemainus was painted by artist Dan Sawatsky in 1991 on the wall of the Pacific Shores Inn Hotel which is a quaint European-style Inn with the privacy and comforts of an American All-Suite Hotel.
Photos Chemainus, British Columbia
9875 Maple Street – Wreckless Potworxx Bistro and Grill
Photos Chemainus, British Columbia
9877 Maple Street – Shear Impressions Nail and Hair Salon
Photos Chemainus, British Columbia
9885 Maple Street – Twisted Sisters Tea Room
Photos Chemainus, British Columbia
Chemainus Outdoor Gathering was painted in 2010-2013 by Lurene Haines on Willow Street. The mural is a two-part story of a typical outdoor Chemainus community gathering, with Mount Brenton in the background, set in the late 1800s. It depicts women, men and children in clothing appropriate for the time. The mural covers two sides of the Chemainus Seniors Drop-In Centre. The first segment is on part of the south wall, facing the centre’s parking lot and downtown Chemainus. The second segment and the largest piece, on the north wall facing the lane, contains the main body of the mural. The mural is designed with the first segment featuring people traveling north toward the large, second segment wall. The orientation of the first segment figures is designed to draw the onlooker’s attention and interest toward the main body of the mural.
Photos Chemainus, British Columbia
Chemainus Outdoor Gathering Mural
Photos Chemainus, British Columbia
Painted by D. G. Chamberlain in 1988
Photos Chemainus, British Columbia
The Older Generations – By Barrie Shaw-Rimmington – on Willow Street – Neil Newton and Dianne Hopkins of Chemainus commissioned this sculpture around 1990. It was created from a series of walk around photos of Neil’s parents, Yvonne and Tom Newton. It is made of Resin mixed with bronze particles then colored with acrylic paint.
Photos Chemainus, British Columbia
The Hermit was painted in 2004 by Paul Ygartua on Willow Street. After a life of living rough, Charlie Abbott wandered into Chemainus and settled into a wooded area nearby. Living alone in the forest he loved, he began transforming it. He planted flower beds, walled pathways, trails, and secluded corners. Charlie’s solitary sanctuary, the Hermit Trail, was a masterpiece of garden and wilderness which he shared with visitors until his death in 1989, at the age of 87.
Photos Chemainus, British Columbia
Chemainus Home
Photos Chemainus, British Columbia
The Thirty-Three Metre Collage was painted in 1982 by artists Frank Lewis and Nancy Lagana and is on Legion Street. At the center, a boom man sorts logs in the slippery danger of the log dump. The mill is portrayed here as it was in 1892; it was the third operation to be built on the site. Owned by the Victoria Lumber & Manufacturing Co. Ltd., it was improved over the years until a fire destroyed it in 1923.
Photos Chemainus, British Columbia
Arrival of the H.M.S. Reindeer in Horseshoe Bay (now called Chemainus Bay) in 1869 was painted by artists Sandy Clark and Lea Goward in 1983. A luminescent cedar bark cloak envelops the figure of a Native princess as she watches the arrival of the sloop Her Majesty’s Ship Reindeer. The ship’s commander, Captain A.E. Kennedy, was an acquaintance of Isabel and Thomas George Askew, pioneers of Chemainus and mill owners for many years. The Reindeer made regular stops in Horseshoe Bay on its rounds of the coast.
Photos Chemainus, British Columbia
In Search of Snipes is a sculpture by artist Glen Spicer and was cast in 1986. On a moonlit summer’s night in 1913, two strangers found their way into Chemainus. While socializing with the locals, they were told of elusive snipes hiding in the forest, and that this would be a perfect night to catch them. The strangers were shown the secret place in the woods and instructed to hold a lit lantern in front of an open sack, into which the locals, acting as beaters, would drive the snipe. The townsfolk then stole back to the village. After hours of waiting, the boys realized they had been innocent victims of a bit of mischief, and they too returned to the village to join the others and share a good laugh. Snipes, like dreams, can be captured. Through hard work, Chemainus embraced its “snipes” when yesterday’s dreams became today’s realities. Due to irreparable damage, the stranger holding the lantern has been removed and placed in storage.
Photos Chemainus, British Columbia
The mural of Billy Thomas was painted on the General Store by Sandy Clark in 1984. Billy Thomas was born in 1874 and was the first male child of European ancestry born in the Chemainus Valley. Thomas lived here for all of his 102 years.
Photos Chemainus, British Columbia
Skating on Fuller Lake is a mural painted in 2007 by Dan Sawatsky on the lane beside the Chemainus Theatre. The climate of Vancouver Island has changed over time. Winters brought snow and on occasion Fuller Lake froze over. Children and adults strapped on their skates and spent a few enjoyable hours at the lake. Impromptu hockey games were great fun.
Photos Chemainus, British Columbia
9737 Chemainus Road – Chemainus Theatre – completed in 1993
Puzzle of Orcas
The mural of Orcas reminds me of the puzzle I just completed, Orca Journey by Wyland, a well-known marine-life artist.