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The Bastion

It’s the Harbour City’s most iconic structure and one of the province’s oldest buildings. How could we not start this list with the Bastion
Naniamo's most iconic structure – the Bastion.

Nanaimo’s most recognizable landmark is standing straight and tall and ready to show itself off after a year of renovations.

The 158-year-old Bastion, Nanaimo’s oldest building, was completely stripped down to remove and replace deteriorating southeast-facing timbers, which caused it to lean three degrees, and given a fresh coat of paint.

To complete the $308,000 project, engineers had to remove the octagon-shaped building’s roof, an unusual and unique sight for many people, but the project had the support of the community.

The Hudson’s Bay Company, which originally built the Bastion in Nanaimo to defend its coal mining operations, donated $80,000 while local philanthropist Sid Sharman added $50,000. The Nanaimo Lion’s Club contributed $10,000.

The result is a success.

“It’s wonderful,” said Debbie Trueman, manager of the Nanaimo Museum, which is responsible for the Bastion. “I think it will last at least another 100 years, especially with its winter coat.”

The winter coat is a new addition that will protect those vulnerable timbers from prevailing storm conditions. The coat will be put on annually for every winter and removed in the spring.

The Bastion will open once again for the summer season on May 19, and visitors will be able to see an updated exhibit inside as well as where the new timbers and steel beams were added, said Trueman.

Almost all of the original square logs – as much as 95 per cent – remain intact in the structure.

The three-storey Bastion took two years to complete – from 1853 to 1855 – and was originally located on a small hill among a smattering of wooden homes and businesses, not far from where it stands today.

Fortified with cannons in each of its square windows, it was a formidable defence against any hostile forces of the time, though it’s not known if those cannons were ever fired in an act of aggression or defence.

Considered Hudson Bay’s oldest freestanding fort in North America and one of only a handful of similar structures, it has been moved twice, in 1891 and 1979, before taking up its current residence at Front and Bastion streets downtown.

Today, cannons located just outside the Bastion fire at noon in the summer months to serve as a tourist attraction and reminder of its original task.