The old Madill factory site

The old Madill factory site

Timeless tales: Madill factory made its mark on city

NANAIMO – Madill factory grew out of blacksmith shop to produce forestry equipment.

Demolition of the old Madill factory in the Bowen Road area is coming and with it will go a part of Nanaimo’s history.

The building gets its name from Sam Madill, who moved from Manitoba to Nanaimo in 1912, setting up a blacksmith shop in the Commercial Street/Terminal Avenue area, according to Discover Nanaimo, a Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce book published in 1992.

A ship factory near Swy-a-lana lagoon and the old Nanaimo Arena was purchased sometime after 1946 serving as a new base. The business would add welding and machine shop work with Norman and Chuck, Sam’s sons, joining as welders.

According to the Madill Equipment website, the family created a mobile spar tree machine in 1955, and according to information from Ehren Madill, Sam’s great-grandson, the machine made it easier for people in the forestry industry to move logs to the loading area.

The factory began producing the machines, but around 1960 the factory burned down and everything was relocated to the Bowen Road site, according to Discover Nanaimo.

Ehren said he remembers hearing from his grandfather Chuck that there was more concrete in the dirt than there was above earth. Heavy machinery was moving along the site, and a lot of concrete was poured into the foundation to support this, he said.

Ehren worked at the site as a youngster with his brother and sister. The three of them would sweep the floors for allowance money.

“If you’re making a buck, it makes it a lot more fun,” said Ehren. “My dad and grandpa enjoyed being there – lots of good memories and lots of nice people worked there. They were always nice to me, but what the heck else are they going to be? You have to be nice to the boss’ kid, I guess.”

According to the City of Nanaimo, Madill went into receivership in 2010 and ownership of the land was recently transferred to Bowen Road Developments, which intends to redevelop the land.

Patrick Brandreth, with Island West Coast Development, the company quarterbacking the project for Bowen Road Developments, said car dealerships and a seniors’ care facility will be built. The development will be named Madill City Centre and there will be a memorial recognizing the Madill building.

Cherie Hennessy, Sam’s granddaughter and Chuck’s daughter, said her father would’ve been saddened by the demolition.

“I know my father, it upset him because he worked very hard to build the business and everything and it made him sad that it was no longer in the family, but that was a long, long time ago and you have to move on,” she said.