The World-Renown Chemainus Murals

In my final Vancouver Island road trip post, Hubby and I explore the Chemainus outdoor murals.

Originally a forestry and mining town, Chemainus’s economy began to struggle when the recession hit in the early 1980’s. Needing to diversify, Chemainus turned to tourism to boost its economic base. A key part of this revitalization was an ambitious series of outdoor murals. The project was initiated in 1982, with the most recent mural commissioned in 2012.

1 Chemainus

We first visited Chemainus in 1985 and, although it was still in its infancy, I remember how impressed we were with the quality and scope of the project. Thirty years later, the town boasts over forty world-famous murals, as well as a dozen or so sculptures, some of which I shared last week. Yellow footprints traipse all around town, and it’s like a fun scavenger hunt to follow them to the next mural.

2 Chemainus

Our first day in Chemainus, we just wandered from here to there, admiring murals as we went. The next day, I got serious and bought a mural map from the Tourist Information Centre. Wisest three bucks I ever spent. Not only does it show where all the murals and sculptures are located, it also gives some background on each work of art. It’ll make a great keepsake.

This carved mural represents a First Nation longhouse and features two paintings by Emily Carr. (Carey Newman, 2010)

3 First Nations Villages as Seen Through the Eyes of Emily Carr, Chemainus Murals 3a First Nations Villages as Seen Through the Eyes of Emily Carr, Chemainus Murals 4 First Nations Villages as Seen Through the Eyes of Emily Carr, Chemainus Murals

First Chemainus water-powered Sawmill 1862. (Sylvia Verity, 2003)

5 1st Chemainus Sawmill 1862, Chemainus

No. 3 Climax Engine hauling logs in 1907. (Dan Sawatzky, 1991)

6 No. 3 Climax Engine 1907, Chemainus

A panoramic view of Chemainus and the harbour in 1910. (Colin Williams, 1987)

7 Chemainus harbour 1910

The War Years, 1915 (Susan Tooke Crichton, 1989)

8 The War Years 1915, Chemainus

Mill Street in 1948 (Mike Svob, 1986)

9 Mill Street in 1948, Chemainus

The Winning Float, 1939. This is such a beautiful mural, but difficult to photograph without trespassing in someone’s front yard. (Joyce Kamikura, 1991)

10a The Winning Float 1939, Chemainus 10b- The Winning Float 1939, Chemainus

The Lone Scout, 1929. A tribute to Edward Shige Yoshida for starting an all Japanese-Canadian Boy Scout Troop. (Stanley Taniwa, 1991)

11 The Lone Scout 1929, Chemainus

Star Novelty Works bicycle shop, at the end of the 19th century. (Cheng Shu-Ren, 2005)

12 Star Novelty Works, Chemainus

The Hong Hing Waterfront Store, 1915-1950. (Paul Marcano, 1982)

13 The Hong Hing Waterfront Store 1915-1950, Chemainus

Chemainus Hospital, built in 1899. (Doug Driediger, 1988)

14 Chemainus Hospital 1899

This isn’t an official mural, but someone did a fine job on these doors.

15 Chemainus Murals

The Spirit of Chemainus. (Dan Sawatzky, 1991)

16 The Spirit of Chemainus

Outdoor Gathering, late 1800’s. (Lurene Haines, 2010)

17a Outdoor Gathering late 1800's, Chemainus 17b Outdoor Gathering late 1800's, Chemainus 18 Chemainus Murals

Steam Train on Bridge Over Chemainus River. (Paul Marcano, 1982)

19 Steam Train on Bridge Over Chemainus River

Fallers Undercutting a Fir. (Thomas Robertson, 1982)

20 Fallers Undercutting a Fir, Chemainus

Waiting For The Whistle, 1925-1982. Scenes of the old sawmill stretch nearly a block and couldn’t be photographed in one shot. (Robert Dafford, 1989)

21a Waiting For The Whistle 1925-1982, Chemainus 21b Waiting For The Whistle 1925-1982, Chemainus 21c Waiting For The Whistle 1925-1982, Chemainus

Passing The Torch – Lest We Forget. (Cim MacDonald, 2006)

22 Passing The Torch, Chemainus

1884 Chinese Bull Gang. (Ernest Marza, 1984)

23 1884 Chinese Bull Gang

Chemainus Tug Boat, built in 1909. (Mark & Harry Heine, 1984)

24 Chemainus Tug Boat 1909

Memories of a Chinese Boy, honouring the town’s Chinese heritage. (Cheng Shu-Ren, 1996)

25 Memories of a Chinese Boy, Chemainus

World in Motion, 1883-1939 montage. (Alan Wylie, 1986)

26a World in Motion 1883-1939, Chemainus 26b World in Motion 1883-1939, Chemainus

Temporary Homes for construction crews in 1912. (David White, 1983)

27 Temporary Homes 1912, Chemainus

Chemainus, 1891. The town was originally known as Horseshoe Bay. (David Maclagan, 1983)

28a Chemainus 1891 28b- Chemainus 1891

The Lumber Barons, 1889-1945. (Constance Greig-Manning, 1992)

29 The Lumber Barons 1889-1945, Chemainus

Julia Askew, first child of European ancestry born in the Chemainus Valley, 1871. (Elizabeth Smily, 1986)

30 Julia Askew, 1st child of European ancestry born in Chemainus Valley

Native Heritage. This mural really stands out in my memory from our 1985 visit. (Paul Ygartua, 1983)

31 Native Heritage, Chemainus

Arrival of the ‘Reindeer’ in Horseshoe Bay. I also remember this one well. (Sandy Clark, Lea Goward, 1983)

32 Arrival of the 'Reindeer' in Horseshoe Bay, Chemainus

First Schoolhouse, 1883. (Kiff Holland, 1986)

33 1st Schoolhouse 1883, Chemainus

Skating on Fuller Lake. (Dan Sawatzky, 2007)

34 Skating on Fuller Lake, Chemainus

Emily Carr’s Beloved Trees. Sombreness Sunlit, Mountain Forest, Logger’s Culls, Happiness & the Red Cedar. (Steffen Junemann, 2009)

35 Emily Carr's Beloved Trees, Chemainus

Second Chemainus Sawmill, constructed in 1879. (Bruce Rickett, 1988)

36 2nd Chemainus Sawmill 1879

The Unknown Miner. This is the most recent mural. Small, but impressive with its 3-D incorporation of cement, wood and steel. (Terry Chapman, 2012)

37 The Unknown Miner, Chemainus

The Mural Volunteers, honouring those who were instrumental in making the mural project a success. (Dan Sawatzky, 2007)

38 The Mural Volunteers, Chemainus

Lenora Mines at Mount Sicker, 1897. This is a compilation of three murals. (Peter Bresnen, 1988)

39a Lenora Mines at Mount Sicker, 1897, Chemainus 39b Lenora Mines at Mount Sicker, 1897, Chemainus 39c Lenora Mines at Mount Sicker, 1897, Chemainus

The Hermit. In the 1970’s, Charlie Abbott created The Hermit Trails in Chemainus’s forest. (Paul Ygartua, 2004)

40 The Hermit 1970's, Chemainus

Billy Thomas, 1874-1976, the first male child of European ancestry born in Chemainus Valley. He lived there his entire 102 years. (Sandy Clark, 1984)

41 Billy Thomas 1874-1976, 1st Male child of European ancestry born in Chemainus Valley

H.M.S. Forward. This one, with its almost haunting presence, gets my vote as the loveliest mural of all. The story behind it is sad: in 1864, a Royal navy vessel was dispatched to search for the murderer of several local residents. (Harry Heine, 1984)

42 H.M.S. Forward 1864, Chemainus

Letters From the Front. Depicts the connection to home the Post Office provided for the soldiers during WW1. (David Goatley, 2002)

43 Letters From the Front, Chemainus

Company Store, the Victoria Lumber & Manufacturing Company in 1917. (Dan Sawatzky, 1983)

44 Company Store 1917, Chemainus

The Telephone Company. This Victorian residence served as the telephone exchange when service became available in 1908. It was a cute setting. (Cim MacDonald, 1992)

45 The Telephone Company, Chemainus

Stevedores at Chemainus Wharf. (Frank Lewis, Nancy Lagana & Paul Marcano, 1982)

46 Stevedores at Chemainus Wharf

Boom Man Sorting Logs. (Frank Lewis, Nancy Lagana & Paul Marcano, 1982)

47 Boom Man Sorting Logs, Chemainus

Steam Donkey At Work. I believe this was the first mural commissioned. (Frank Lewis & Nancy Lagana, 1982)

48 Steam Donkey At Work, Chemainus

Logging with Oxen. In 1898, oxen served as the primary source of power in logging. (Harold Lyon, 1983)

49 Logging with Oxen 1898, Chemainus

Camp 2 on a Sunday, 1902. (David J. More, 1983)

50 Camp 2 on a Sunday 1902, Chemainus

If you’d like to catch up on my other Vancouver Island posts, start here, then click ‘next’ (top right). Just a warning: contains lots and lots of gorgeous photos.

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