1882 Nanaimo Directory

Nanaimo - Descriptive

The city of is situated on the East coast of Vancouver Island, about 70 miles from Victoria. There is a Government road most of the distance between the latter city and Nanaimo, which was built many years ago, but at present the more convenient way to reach there is by water. Nanaimo takes its name from the local Indian tribe, and as a general thing, the name is applied to the surrounding region for many miles, including the districts (containing about 100 square miles) known on the Government map as Mountain, Cedar, Cranberry and Wellington.

The city has a background covered with a heavy forest of cedar and fir, while hidden beneath are untold treasures of bituminous coal of various strata and depth, which forms the staple of Nanaimo and its neighborhood. Approached from the harbor, the city appears to nestle at the foot of Mount Benson, a hill of considerable elevation, which is nevertheless several miles distant. The building of the city and the laying out of its streets were necessarily affected by the irregular conformation of the coast line, the various indentations of the harbor having caused many deflections in the streets, noticeable to a stranger landing for the first time.

Nanaimo was not built with the prospect of becoming a commercial emporium or business centre, as is commonly the case with new cities upon the Pacifid coast, but was originally intended to be simply a mining village and trading post by its founders -- the Hudson's Bay Company -- who bought the town-plot from the Indians in the winter of 1852.

The harbor is safe and commodious, affording secure anchorage for shipping and excellent facilites for quays and qharves near the shore where deeply-laden vessels may lie with safety. There are several places along the harbor line which are well adapted for the construction of dry docks, where the requisite outlay of capital would be comparatively light owing to the adaptation of the coast. It is indeed a pretty sight to see upon a summer evening the numerous boating and yachting parties which take their recreation upon the placid waters of the harbor, or thread their course amid the islands situated from one to three miles from the city.

Besides the large coal wharves of the Vancouver Coal Co. and that of C. Carpenter for the shipment of lumber from his saw-mill, there are other wharves, those of D. W. Gordon and the late Jno. Hirst, where passengers and freight are usually landed, and towards which the chief traffic and business of the city converge.

The original town-site was confined to the rocky peninsula upon which the chief business part now stands; but of late years, the deep ravine in the rear has been spanned by two well constructed wooden bridges which lead to the newer portion of the city, where most of the private residences are built; since Incorporation, which took place some eight years ago, the city fathers have shown much judgment in utilising the burnt cinders from the refuse coal heaps of the adjacent collieries with which they have overlaid the streets, and a fine, hard, dry covering has resulted.

The same judicious care has generally been exercised in the economical management of the civic exchequer. The Government buildings in Front street (consisting of Court house and jail) are wooden structures and consequently of only a temporary character. A new post office is about to be erected and will be the first public building in the city provided by the Dominion Government for the transaction of the federal business.

Passing up Front street we come to the Episcopal church of S. Paul with the adjacent parsonage. This edifice, which consists of nave and chancel with a small tower and spire, has at present an able incumbent in the person of the Rev. W. H. Clarke. A little beyond is the Methodist church, the Rev. C. Bryant, pastor. This is the mother or pioneer church, having been erected in 1860. There is also, in the case of S. Paul's, a commodious room for Sabbath-school purposes. The Presbyterian church is situated across the ravine in Fitzwilliam and Robson streets. It is smaller than the other places of worship, but of neat design with a belfry in front. A fine manse also stands on the same lot, but for some time past it has been unoccupied. A short distance from the Presbyterian church, are the Roman Catholic church and parsonage, and the Convent school of St. Ann, forming together the most imposing edifices in Nanaimo. These are situated on Wallace st. The church is of beautiful Gothic design, and has a very popular priest in Father Lemons, who has been in charge since the consecration of the church.

The public schools are conducted in two separate buildings; the boy's school is the orginal edifice erected by the Government in Haliburton street, where the Senior department is under the care of D. Jones, and the Junior in charge of A. E. Lindsay. The girl's school house, on the corner of Franklyn and Selby streets, is a more recent erection and consists of two stories. In the upper room Mrs. Berkley has charge of the senior girls, and Miss Potley teaches the junior department in the lower room.

As before mentioned, the Sisters of St. Ann have a large and flourishing educational establishment for girls, conducted with their well known ability and care, the attendance being about 40.

The AGRICULTURAL CAPABILITIES of the district surrounding Nanaimo are but limited, although in the vallyes of the Nanaimo and Millstream reivers, chiefly on bottom or delta lands, several farmers have for years reaped rumunerative returns.

CLIMATE — The climate differs little from that of Victoria, except that the winter may be a little longer, and the prevalence of high winds from the sea may not be as frequent as in the neighbourhood of the capital. The dry weather in summer often continues without interruption for weeks together. As a whole, the climate is pleasant.

FISHING AND HUNTING — Sportsmen have almost unlimited resources of enjoyment in the large range for deer and bear hunting which may be found in the surrounding forest; and in the mountain lakes, which are numerous, a few miles back, trout of the finest kind and large size may be obtained.

The Victoria road, which leads from Haliburton street is macadamised for a long distance and affords a find carriage drive across Nanaimo river which, at a distance from the city of six miles, is spanned by a substantial wooden bridge, a little beyond which is a way-side hotel kept by Mr. Halloran. Beyond Nanimo river there are several enterprising farmers who are making comfortable homes for themselves in Cedar and Cranberry districts; the most distant of them being from about 10 or 11 miles from Nanaimo. Beyond these, there is no settlement along the Victoria road for 15 miles, or until Chemainus is reached.

In the opposite direction from Nanaimo is the road leading to the Wellington mine, which is six miles distant. This road is the most frequented of any in the district, as it passes through the Westwood estate, two miles from the city, where another new colliery is talked of, and away on to the new mines at South Wellington and to the farming settlements of Nanoose and Englishman's river. Wellington is at present reached by stages, several lines of which are constantly running to and fro. There is all necessary accommodation for travellers at the Wellington hotel, kept by T. Wall, and at the Somerset house further on by J. Fear.

There is a telegraph station connecting with Victoria on the one hand and with the Mainland of B. C. by submarine cable, on the other. A County Court is held here monthly by one of the Judges of the Supreme Court. Courts of Assize are also held here.

LITERARY INSTITUTE — This building, erected in 1866, is one of the largest in Nanaimo and its hall, upon the ground floor, affords room for 250 persons. It is the best room for public gatherings in the city and is commonly used for theatrical entertainments, balls, soirees, and public meetings of various kinds. In its upper story there is a large reading room with smaller rooms behind. The position of this building at the East end of Bastion street bridge is well adapted for the purpose of a public institution of this kind.

The Nanaimo Hospital, located in one of the most desirable positions in the city, stands at the head of Franklyn street, upon a site donated by the Vancouver Coal Co. It was erected partly by Government aid and partly by private subscriptions at a cost of $3,000, but a debt of $900 still remains, which the well-known generosity of the Nanaimo and Wellington people will doubtless ere long remove.

The Nanaimo Fire Engine Co., No. 1, occupies a building in a central position in Commercial street. The site was donated by J. W. Stirtan and the late J. Hirst, and by the same gentleman was the building erected in 1878 and given to the Fire Co., excepting a large donation of lumber by C. Carpenter. The engine which was formerly in use in Portland, Oregon, has been of considerable service here, especially in extinguishing the great fire in the Chase river mines two years ago, for which purpose it was taken down into the mine-workings and rendered incalculable service in subduing the fire which would otherwise have destroyed the entire mine. The engine is worked by a volunteer company.

The Masonic fraternity have a fine hall in a building owned by Ashlar Lodge No. 3, situated in Commercial street. The Odd Fellows' Lodge — Black Diamond, No. 4 — have a very commodious hall also in Commercial street near the Long bridge, in which there are also regular meetings of the Foresters' Lodge, which has a large number of members, and also of the lodge of the Ancient Order of United Workmen. The Good Templar, Onward Lodge No. 2, holds regular meetings in its hall near the Methodist church in Front street.

WAGES — The scale of wages paid is affected considerably by circumstances, but generally laborers earn $2 and carpenters from $2.50 to $3 per day. Rate of board and lodging: Five dollars per week are charged for board at the hotels, and $25 per month for both board and lodging. Taken altogether, its numerous w ealth of coal and many undeveloped industries will tend to make Nanaimo in the near future a great shipping and manufacturing centre.

DEPARTURE BAY. — This fine harbor, adjacent to Nanaimo, has accommodation for a whole fleet, and indeed it often contains many vessels, some loading coal and others waiting for cargoes. Both the Wellington and South Wellington mines have their wharves on the West shore of this bay, while on the opposite side are the Vancouver Coal Co.'s wharves at Newcastle Island. Nothing can be more picturesque than the scenery around Departure Bay and along the narrow channel (deep enough though for large ships to pass through) which connects it with Nanaimo harbor. There is a good entrance to the Gulf of Georgia on the outside.

Williams' British Columbia Directory, (1882), pp. 152-154.