Curiosity fuels John Hofman’s interest in history and passion for preserving remnants of the past.
For more than a decade, Hofman has fought to preserve the above-ground mining structures that remain at Morden Colliery Historic Provincial Park, located in South Wellington, including the deteriorating head frame and tipple.
“I have always been fascinated by why different people stayed here. Why did they do that,” said Hofman. “Why did these miners go down there?”
Hofman questions why someone would want to work in a dusty tunnel and risk their lives everyday.
“Imagine going down there everyday, wet and cold and damp and dangerous,” said Hofman. “This was the way of life then.”
One reason Hofman said he has worked so hard to preserve the structures is because it is a symbol of Nanaimo’s heritage.
There are some indicators of Nanaimo’s coal mining history in the city, but most of the larger structures were torn down, he said.
Hofman and others involved with the Friends of Morden Mine have fought for grants to restore the head frame and tipple before it gets to a point where it is beyond repair.
“One day that thing is just going to implode on itself,” said Hofman.
He said one reason that the project has been hard to fund is there are so many heritage projects in the province and only so much money is available.
Hofman worked as a structural engineer with Read Jones Christoffersen Consulting Engineers, now called RJC Engineers, before he retired in 2012. He still consults for the company on special projects.
Because of his background in engineering, Hofman learned to draw to create architectural plans. He spends hours in the summer at Morden Mine sketching. One of his sketches even graces the cover of the Discover Morden Mine brochure. He created the sketch in 1995, when the wooden guide rails were still in place. Comparing the sketch to the structure that now stands in the park paints a clear picture of how much the head frame and tipple have been degrading.
Hofman is receiving the John Thomson Heritage Memorial Award during the Culture and Heritage Awards Ceremony April 13 at the Port Theatre. The award is to recognize his dedication to numerous heritage initiatives, including 18 years on the City’s Heritage Commission and as a Friends of Morden Mine board member.
“It was a pleasant surprise,” said Hofman.