Nanaimo Chronicles by Jan Peterson

A Place in Time Nanaimo ChroniclesThe Nanaimo Museum has published a new book by Jan Peterson, author Hub City: Nanaimo 1886-1920 and Harbour City: Nanaimo in Transition, 1920-1967. A Place in Time Nanaimo Chronicles begins with a short history of Nanaimo from the arrival of the first representatives of the Hudson’s Bay Company to the creation of the Nanaimo Port Authority. Chapter two discusses the origins of street names in downtown Nanaimo from Albert Street to Winfield Crescent. I wasn’t surprised to read that Vancouver Avenue where I live was named for Captain George Vancouver but the unexpected origins of names like Deverill Square and Hecate Street are intriguing.

Peterson conjures up the largely forgotten era of the pioneer kitchen, then there are succinct histories of Nanaimo’s notable buildings, early hotels, geographic places, parks, monuments, plaques, cairns, and murals. The alphabetical format makes it easy to look up information without having to consult the excellent six-page index. Chapter nine introduces some notable Nanaimo artists from the past, plus the Nanaimo Concert Band.

The absense of First Nations history at the front of the book is partly addressed in chapter ten, Snuneymuxw Art and Legends, although the narrative focuses mostly on interactions with Europeans and descriptions of totem poles. The large Snuneymuxw Reserve in South Nanaimo is mentioned only in passing. Obviously, the lives and circumstances of Nanaimo’s contemporary native population are well beyond the scope of this book, but I think a concise history of the Snuneymuxw Reserve would have fit into A Place in Time Nanaimo Chronicles very nicely.

What you will find is a 25-page history of the Port of Nanaimo. There’s even a complete list of harbour commissioners from 1961 to 2008 and the histories of a dozen notable ships associated with the city. This special attention probably stems from the fact that the Nanaimo Port Authority is a major sponsor of the Port of Nanaimo Centre which houses the Nanaimo Museum. The 23 mayors of Nanaimo, from Mark Bate to Gary R Korpan, are also sympathetically profiled in chapter twelve. Chapter thirteen may be the best in the book, chronicling events in Nanaimo from 1835 to 2000 on an annual basis.

This entire 293-page book is a cornucopia of fascinating trivia and useful information. The card index-style organization makes navigation a breeze, and the dozens of captioned historic photos bring the Nanaimo of yesteryear to life. I urge anyone with the slightest interest in the history of our city – newcomers especially – to rush down to the Nanaimo Museum on Commercial Street and purchase a copy. At $19.95, A Place in Time Nanaimo Chronicles is a bargain and all profits from the book go to the Nanaimo Museum Endowment Fund.

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