Recording Duncan

Here is the continueing story from the post before this one. At that time I walked around town very early in that dark night. Clicking away with my phone camera set me to thinking, the way I think so often, about photographing everything as a record for the future. Different cities around the world have these type of photographs in their archives, the ones that you stand in front of the building photograph and move on to the next.
For this post I started photographing about half an hour before the oficial sunrise. The closer I came to sunrise and going beyond it, the more the natural light interfered with the colors I wanted.
I’m showing a few of the same buildings photographed in the post before this one.

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So these are a few of the storefronts that light up Kenneth Street. The new construction shows what kind of development is in the planning for this area. It’s a shame that the downtown core, about 6 blocks down to the railroad track, cannot be preserved for posterity in the mid of future tall steel and concrete development that will dwarf even city hall’s tower.

I like to show a building one block over. This building, even though with history, cannot be long for this world. Nothing pretty it’s just old. Across the road from it was Duncan’s Chinatown. The building housed the Chow Brothers convenience store. The store had a little of everything, a great comic and magazine section, and single cigarettes. Closing its doors coincided with the beginning of Duncan’s new era of growth, renewal, change.

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Nothing like an invigorating early morning walk through Duncan with its very cool air. I have cold hands to show for it. Glad you came along and hope to see you soon again.

More images of this project are being uploaded to my Flickr Duncan set of photogaphs.


Duncan very early one morning

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This post has a bit of an introduction to it. While my mother was in palliative care I spent a lot of time with her. First of all The staff at Sunridge Place that was involved with the care for my mother and the family around her needs to be complimented and thanked for the care they provided and the kindness and love they portrayed to us. Their care was both professional and, at times, beyond any call of duty.

When possible I used to go out early in the morning to get some cool fresh air. Mostly it’d be pitch black, but some days those mornings were close to sunrise. As it was in Duncan city, I couldn’t help but give my attention to all the little store fronts. They are small historic jewels very slowly replaced by humongous concrete boxes since the needs of the town grow. As I am not fond of night camera apps the HDR app on my phone was put to use again and seeing the results was a pleasant surprise.

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What you can make out here is the First Memorial Chapel. Before its present function the building was Duncan’s first Catholic church.

Here are a few of the store fronts in the dark. Over the years these buildings have had different businesses occupying them without much visible change to the buildings themselves.Duncan_2014-03-08_05-50-21_HDR[BL]




Daylight is making itself known as I wander back to my resposibilities passing by city hall.

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This exercise calls for a follow up with camera and tripod in the near future. Thank you for walking with me.


About recording history

Driving to Chemainus as I do mostly using the byways rather than the highway I admired the bridge replacement across the Chemainus river (I haven’t taken any photographs there for a long time and probably will check on the new development this spring camera in hand) just before entering Chemainus from the south. The old bridge was like the Cowichan Station bridge I have shown in an earlier installment. Driving across that bridge I thought about how time changes things. Life on this Earth is change. These thoughts brought me back to Cowichan Station. When first I arrived here Cowichan Station was a post office, railroad track and important trainstation with a few houses around the post office, and farms. Oh, and a school. It’s still all of that minus the post office (which now is a private residence) and the school (which now is used for community affairs – I think). So from Chemainus I drove back to Cowichan Station to take photographs of the railroad overpass which is situated in the nastiest crook of a country road, single lane traffic, reckoning that at some time it is going to be history. A similar overpass across the Trans Canada Highway south of Duncan to accommodate train traffic to the CPR docks in Cowichan Bay was removed, I think (or remember) about 30 years ago. The Cowichan Station overpass cannot last. In photographic terms the day was dull, nevertheless here is the Cowichan Station’s overpass. The second photograph I took because I’ve been here so often and summer vegetation always totally obscures one of my favourite buildings, St Andrews church (which is no longer used for services). The photograph is taken from the tracks over the road (by the way here is a portrayal of its beautiful inside by Toad Hollow Photography). Another thing I sometimes wonder about is what will happen to our history on line during the alien invasion…My giddy aunt go run for the hills that sort of thing..

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At any rate once again I am so glad to have this chat with you, as I’m thinking about preservation of the beauty and authenticity of country roads and rural scenes.

Mount St Angela

When walking around the Christ Church Cathedral, shown in the episode before this one, I came across an old building that clearly had seen better days. The Mount St Angela building was built in the second half of the nineteenth century and added on to in 1911. It was built as part of the Christ Church establishment, sold to the sister’s of St Ann for a sister retirement home in the fifties, and this century sees it in the eye of the developer. However, Mount St. Angela is a designated heritage building, an important one in the historic architectural fabric of Victoria and it has not been pushed over yet. Its architect designed many of the Victoria houses and buildings, the Richard (Emily) Carr house is one of them. It was designed by John Wright and George Sanders. Personally I believe that the right way of preservation is maintaining certain areas or neighbourhoods rather than individual buildings. It may be a little late for this approach in Victoria and the future may show us buildings such as this one surviving in the midst of 4, 6, or 20 story square boxes made out of concrete and glass. I’m by no means down on modern architecture (the most beautiful buildings worldwide definitely have a share of modern ones with them), but I don’t think that the designs that tend to show up in Victoria particularly beautify the city. At any rate let’s hope the building does not go derelict but gets restored. I think of seismic upgrading and realise there will be a struggle between history and money over the fate of this building.

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The future may see this building erased, partly preserved, or restored in its entirety including two houses that are on this property. At least that is what I came up with in my research. However the most recent news items about this place that I could find go back to 2008.

Here is some info on the architects. John Wright did a lot of building in Victoria during the middle part of the 1800s, later on joined by his brother in law, George Sanders, who had met up with him a few years before the Mount St Angela project.

The Union Club Of British Columbia

One of  the beautiful buildings in Victoria BC, definitely from the era much inspired by the British of the time, is the Union Club of BC building. Nowadays it is very much like a hotel. It is advertised by the many hotel booking agencies that operate on line, but it still is a club with dress codes and such from long ago. The building was built in 1912 when the Club had outgrown its previous home. One of these days I hope to go inside but in the mean time there is the outside. The building, obviously designed for the awkward property it is on, is a prime example of west coast architecture with the British influences in the early 1900’s.

Arriving here from Amsterdam in the mid 1960’s I was awed by the inner city low building style and the subsequent feeling of total spaciousness. This building is part of that old low style. The landscape has changed somewhat in the mean time because of modern high rise intermingling but I’m able to ignore that aspect in these photographs.

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One early morning in Duncan

One morning getting up before the sun I took some photographs of buildings I’d never aimed the camera at until this time. As the sun rose the light and colors became more exotic. However little of that color shows in these photos, as I was after a different effect. The bottom line always is about depicting some kind of reality. Looking at the City Hall, formerly, a very long time ago, the post office the sun was no more than a gleam.

City Hall

City of Duncan, City Hall

Duncan has its share of older brick buildings and that beautiful low building style of those days.

170 Craig St, now The Matraea Centre

At any rate the sun now touches town and first of all the housing facility for some of our elderly, at the end of this road.

Craig Street

Walking to where the sun breaks into the scenery brings the Cowichan Tribes government buildings into view.

Cowichan Tribes

Amid the lush growth of the Cowichan Valley these buildings fit very nicely and leave space for idyllic and playful little spots.

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It is partially the photo editing and partly the rapidly changing light that make for the coloring difference in the next photograph.

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Here are a few more buildings from these grounds.

Cowichan Tribes, Allenby Road

Cowichan Tribes

Time to walk back for a close up of that nice little statue in front of City Hall.

Duncan City Hall

The common ingredient of these photographs is that beside the normal amount of photoshopping they have also had a run in with Pixlr Express, an online photo editor.

That public something or other that has not been in use for a long time

There is this small building in Duncan that has not been open to the public for many years. It became a closed down affair during the time the Saturday farmers market still ran from the surrounding parking lot. I remember it before then as the public washrooms and in this day and age… well, I’m amazed the building  still stands. So, before it disappears, here are some photographs of it. The paintings on the building are of course  from the Farmers Market days.

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One side, of course, was the lady’s and the other side man’s. I cannot remember which side I used, but now that it makes waves in my mind I do realize how close this parking lot was to the two major drinking holes in town. Both of these establishments are history now, but the pissoir, albeit history, still stands.

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I’ve always wondered about that shake roof, but it was great for some of the marketeers who had their stalls underneath them on hot Saturdays. Even now this is the most popular spot for summertime parking on this humongous parking lot even though these roofs give minimal protection.

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This area is going to change and is changing right now, as it is in the middle of town, on native territory and ready for change. Yet I have good memories of “Indian Mount” in the middle more or less of the parking lot and it being forever the same for at least half a century (my time) and I’m certain, way before that …  I’ve had a few drinks on that mount. It is gone now and brave new world here we come. Part of the development is a newly build senior place.

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Paldi’s Sikh Temple

Paldi, over the first half of the past century, grew from a camp around a sawmill into a village. The temple that still stands there is from the 1930’s. Paldi, and the Canadian Sikh community in general, has gone through a mighty interesting history. At this point in time the village is no longer there. Apparently it was sold through the banks to a developer who pulled most everything down made some sales and went bankrupt. The temple, through much effort by the Sikh community in Canada was saved, more or less at the last minute by giving it historic status. Having been in the valley since the late sixties I remember the village well, but now that village is a pile of rubble with only the temple, water tower, and a shed left standing (and a derelict house without doors and windows, which you can see here, with windows and door still in it, a few years ago).

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Here is a short history of Paldi, but perhaps the real reason for this blog post is that interesting history of Sikhs in Canada and their struggle for recognition and equality during the twentieth century.

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When first I came to Victoria in 1965 I was most impressed by the city’s downtown low building style. It gave a very open and spacious feel to BC’s Capital, city. Having just arrived from Europe this was one of the phenomena I came across in those early days in Canada that made a deep and lasting impression on me. Of course Victoria half a century hence is a different city. Not as low in the building style and not as spacious as I felt it to be that long time ago. Moreover where it was unique due to its short historical development and related building styles, all the new developments recent, present, and future so far look geared to make Victoria exactly like the other cities situated on North America’s west coast in their modern developments. At present the replacement of the Johnston Street Bridge and its surrounds is the biggie to show my point. The design is definitely contemporary. Modern, bright and homogeneous it pays less than lip service
to the area’s history (a very few of the historic building fronts have been incorporated into the designs). Once all is said and done I doubt very much that the future holds tourists who come to Victoria to see the new bridge. Ideally some parts of certain cities incl Victoria ought to be protected from eradication and out of style type development (similar to, for example, national parks).
This entry shows three of my favourite small buildings. They are presented in Black and White only because for now I am partial to b&w.
The first building, originally the Royal Bank Of Canada Building designed by Thomas Hooper, was built in 1909. In the 1950s the building was renovated by the bank. At that time it lost its second story and glass dome, and most if not all aspects of the original Hooper design were covered up (concrete can cover everything). In the 1980s a local bookstore man, Jim Munro, bought the building. He must have spent a lot of money to bring the building back to its original state with among other things the original cast plaster ceiling exposed again but minus second floor. For what Mr Munro has done with this building its new name “Munro`s Books Of Victoria Building“ suits the building to a tee.
Just a few buildings down, on that same Government Street stands the E.A. Morris Building. Mr Morris came to Canada in 1877 and after working for some years in gold mines and explosives factories he bought the at that time ten year old building on Government St. He did very well importing the best of cigars and tobacco and in 1909 he hired the fore mentioned Mr Hooper to design and complete a total renovation of the building. From that day until the anti smoke campaign reached some kind of momentum, not that many years ago, the store was the same, always oozing an air of luxury thanks to Mexican onyx installed around the entrance and inside as baseboard and the use of mirrors, mahogany paneling and mosaic floor as well as many other beautiful furnishings. During the early `defilement of smokers` and the `devil in tobacco` campaign, late past century and the present century  this store nearly bit the dust due to local bylaws against showing tobacco and smoke related paraphernalia. In my earlier days when in Victoria, that is where I’d buy my cigarettes and enjoy lighting up using the store’s beautiful lighter on its Mexican onyx stand with its forever burning gas flame. That lighter is no longer going, but the store’s furnishings still are very much the same as they always were. I wonder whether Old Morris Tobacconist as a business can survive these days.
The final building on this short list of favourites is the Dominion Customs House.  This is, I believe, the first federal building since BC joined Confederation in 1871. It was built in 1874-75 and its flat roof was used as a look out over the harbour. I wanted to get  onto that roof, but today’s occupants (Lawyer’s offices) were not aware of the building’s history nor of access to the roof. Over the years I have photographed the Dominion Customs House from every angle but this one, which was taken a few weeks ago.
Victoria has many thrilling sights and this has been a very short exploration since all the buildings are within a few blocks from each other.