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When Art Meets History

Heritage Chilliwack's interpretation of last year's Heritage Week theme, "Always in All Ways" spotlighted the juxtaposition of downtown's historic buildings with Chilliwack's artistic sector, and how art can highlight heritage and vice versa.


The use of murals on heritage buildings is not without controversy. Some in the heritage sector argue vehemently against it, calling it sacrilegious. They argue that there is a risk of structural damage through the use of non-porous paint and that the murals, aesthetically, contrast with a building's historic appeal. 


But one cannot dismiss the fact that murals add a contemporary hue to historic areas and can be seen as culturally significant additions to the story of these spaces. Often, these murals depict representations of socially relevant issues, and bring awareness to the public of important cultural, historical, & social stories.


Mural art has also been shown to be effective in increasing economic development.   Attracting more visitors to the area results in increased traffic, which benefits existing businesses and encourages new business development. Mural art shows these places as vibrant, viable, and worth preserving.


Below you will find archival photos and a brief history of some of downtown's historic building sites, along with the corresponding mural to be found on it.  We encourage you to go visit these sites in person.


Sacrilegious or Artistic?...Useless or Educational?...we'll leave it up to you to decide.


Image Credit: Chilliwack Museum & Archives. Photo No.2018.061.003.007

The house, where well respected and admired Dr. McCaffrey lived and practised medicine, once occupied a prominent corner of downtown Chilliwack at the corner of Mill Street and Victoria Avenue; where the Harvest Café is now located.


The old farmhouse sat empty for several years after the doctor’s death in 1960. And some said it was haunted, or at least appeared haunted, judging by the unkempt condition of the house and the overgrown vegetation on the property. An attempt to preserve the house was not successful and the home was demolished in the mid 1960’s to make way for further retail development on Mill Street.

The mural, "Central Elementary Mural" by can be found on the north side of the building along Victoria Avenue.







In May, 1909 the Royal Hotel on Wellington Avenue started welcoming the travelling public through its front doors. The original owner was Mr. D.S. Dundas and the contractor was R.H.Brock, who built other homes and buildings in Chilliwack, including his own home on Gore Avenue, a designated heritage home; and Robertson Elementary School, located on Elm Street.


In 1926, Tom Berry Sr. purchased the Royal Hotel and began the Berry family’s tenure at the hotel that spanned nearly seven decades. The Royal Hotel still welcomes guests from near and far; continuing the tradition that the Berry Family began. The hotel’s roots are also deeply woven into the fabric, culture and rich history of B.C.’s Fraser Valley.


Image Credit: Chilliwack Museum & Archives. Photo No.P841

In May, 1909 the Royal Hotel on Wellington Avenue started welcoming the travelling public through its front doors. The original owner was Mr. D.S. Dundas and the contractor was R.H.Brock, who built other homes and buildings in Chilliwack, including his own home on Gore Avenue, a designated heritage home; and Robertson Elementary School, located on Elm Street.


In 1926, Tom Berry Sr. purchased the Royal Hotel and began the Berry family’s tenure at the hotel that spanned nearly seven decades. The Royal Hotel still welcomes guests from near and far; continuing the tradition that the Berry Family began. The hotel’s roots are also deeply woven into the fabric, culture and rich history of B.C.’s Fraser Valley.

The mural, "I Will Not Fear"by artist Jason Botkin, can be found at the back of the building.










Image Credit: Chilliwack Museum & Archives. Photo No.P593

On October 22, 1913 the two-story Imperial Theatre building celebrated its grand opening with tenor Harold Jarvis performing with Miss Mary Lyon, entertainer and pianist. As was typical with vaudeville theatres, the Imperial Theatre was used for meetings, community gatherings and conventions as well as a venue for live entertainment.


Chilliwack suffragettes met in 1915 at the Imperial Theatre; in August 1916 the Imperial hosted a meeting in support of alcohol prohibition. During the First World War footage of the war effort as well as news reels kept Chilliwack’s residents informed of current events.


The Imperial Theatre was remodeled in March 1926 to accommodate motion picture viewing with improved and increased seating. The renovations however did not help the Imperial Theatre and the theatre ceased operations in May 1927. Copp’s Shoes then occupied the bottom floor of the Imperial Theatre building from 1928 until the 1970’s.


Bow & Stern are now the new tenants of the re-imagined Imperial Theatre. The mural, "Don Quixote Y La Rana"by artist, Malik, can be found on the back side of the building.








Image Credit: Chilliwack Museum & Archives. Photo No.2010.025.001

In the April 26, 1928 edition of the Chilliwack Progress, it was announced that a new Woolworth’s store would soon be opening on a site near Five Corners, on the south side of Yale Road East, across from the brick post office. The company had entered into a 15-year lease on a new two-storey building being built specifically for the high-profile retail business.


Situated in what was initially known as the Macken Block, at 40 Yale Road East, two doors east of the Stacey Block, the new Woolworth’s was welcomed with an orchestra, company officials, and local politicians in attendance. For the next 24 years, Woolworth’s would be a popular retail destination in downtown Chilliwack The F. W. Woolworth Co. chain’s corporate red-and-gold sign became a familiar landmark in downtown Chilliwack.


The mural, "Legendary Birds"by artist, Chase Gray, can be found on the back of the Woolworth Building.








Image Credit: Chilliwack Museum & Archives. Photo No.1977.045.008

The Boyd Building sits on the site of an old grist mill known as the Mill on Mill Street. This mill had been purchased and operated by Kurt Boyd and his partner, W.R.Theal, since 1929. Realizing the site was in a commercially advantageous location, Boyd bought out his partner, demolished the old mill, and built the existing building in 1950.


Plans called for a 5,400-sq.-ft. structure to accommodate six retail units, with two facing south (at 57 and 59 Wellington Avenue) and the other four facing east (at 1, 3, 5, and 7 Mill Street). The new Boyd Building’s appearance was highlighted with tapestry brick masonry. Popular between 1900 and 1950, tapestry bricks were meant to be alternated across a wall, imparting a decorative, patchwork effect (hence the name “tapestry”) throughout the finished structure. At the time, tapestry bricks were promoted as a designer item to make buildings “restful and pleasing to the eye”. Tapestry bricks are no longer produced.


In addition to running the family business, Boyd was also a property developer. He served nine years as a city alderman, in addition to chairing the Chilliwack General Hospital board. He was also a Rotarian, an elder of the United Church, a member of the IOOF, and an avid lawn bowler. The Stacey Block is situated on the south side of Yale Road East, just 45 metres east of Five Corners. Elegant in its compactness and classically simple design, the structure is hardly a ‘block’ in scale, as it is only 7.5 metres in width.


The mural, "Alley Cat"by artist Oksana Gaidasheva, is located on the back wall of the building facing the alley.









Image Credit: Chilliwack Museum & Archives. Photo No.2010.005.0748

For 94 years, from when the Gilbert Block first opened in 1926, there has been a women’s clothing store located in the building at the corner of Yale Road East and Nowell Street (with the last 72 years being anchored by Auld Phillips).


The man behind construction of the familiar two-storey building was W. R. Gilbert, who arrived in Chilliwack from Winnipeg in 1908. Gilbert planned to build a two-storey brick structure, with two retail units on the main floor – one comprising 5,500 sq. ft. (to be occupied by Gilbert Co.) and the other 960 sq. ft. Similar to the Hart Block and Irwin Block at Five Corners, the building would accommodate a number of three-room residential suites on the upper floor.

The mural, "Undulation and Turmoil"by the artistic group Raven-Tacuara, is located on the east side wall of the Gilbert Block building facing Nowell Street.


Image Credit: Chilliwack Progress and Chilliwack Museum & Archives. Photo No.1999.029.032.008

On Thursday, November 9, 1950, after 15 years at the small and crowded location on Wellington Avenue, Chilliwack's new brick-and-glass $165,000 Safeway store at 20 Mill Street was officially opened.


Newspapers in the Valley headlined it as “British Columbia’s Most Modern Food Store”. Not only was it bigger than its predecessor with ample free parking, but it was essentially ‘state-of-the-art’ modern in all supermarket aspects.


For the decade of the 1950s, the new Safeway store on Mill Street, along with Eaton’s, served as the ‘anchor magnets’ that drew shoppers to downtown Chilliwack.


The murals, "Use Your Voice"by artist Kevin Ledo, and "Mood Ring Romantics" b artist Tierney Milne, are located on the north and west walls of the building.


The murals, "Use Your Voice"by artist Kevin Ledo, and "Mood Ring Romantics" by artist Tierney Milne, are located on the north and west walls of the building.


A special thank you to Merlin Bunt, creator of the FaceBook page 'Chilliwack History Perspectives' and Laura Reid, writer for the Royal Hotel Blog, for the use of their respective research material.






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