THEN AND NOW
The area we know today as Waterwheel Park was part of the grounds of the mill manager's house. The house, built in 1891, was located in the ‘lumber yard’ about where the statue of HR Macmillan stands today. A long tree- lined driveway came off of Mill Street across from St Michael’s Church. The ‘lumber yard’ extended from Mill Street to Cedar Street, down Cedar to Oak and almost down to the water, and was enclosed by a high wooden fence. There was a gate at Mill Street and one on Cedar Street. There were also 2’x2’ openings in the fence, convenient shortcuts for the kids. Inside the fence were piles of lumber, stacked so vehicles could get in to load and unload. Downtown Chemainus was not developed until after WWII, the first buildings to go up after the fence came down were the Johannsen block and the theatre. The manger’s house was torn down in 1952.
When I talk to people who grew up here in the 30’s and 40’s, they always mention the Easter Egg hunt. The manager at the time, Mr. Humbird used to have an Easter Egg hunt on Easter Sunday morning for the children whose parents were associated with the mill. There was one condition; the children had to attend Sunday school before the hunt. The eggs were hidden in the area below the museum.
There were also tennis courts on the grounds, situated about where the Waterwheel is today. The dance to celebrate VL&Mco. 50th anniversary was held on the tennis courts.
The cenotaph was erected in 1920-21 between the Anglican church and the courthouse, and proved to be a bit of a traffic hazard in that location. It now resides in the park. The present Waterwheel is a replica of the original that powered the early mills. This wheel and the first phase of the park were constructed as part of the 1967 Canadian Centennial celebrations.
The new children’s playground area provides our future with entertainment from our past. Children can play in the tall ship, ride the skids and paddle the big canoe, limited only by imagination.
The park contains many of the trees indigenous to Vancouver Island. Some of the trees that have been topped have some of our local wildlife visiting in them.
by Irene Dutton