The Last Bastion

Posted: 4th January 2013 by ToadHollowPhoto in Photography
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It’s near impossible to imagine the lives that the early settlers must have led here on Vancouver Island.  Sure, it hardly ever gets super-cold up here and the snow usually just sticks around for a short period of time when it actually makes an appearance.  Today we give none of this a second thought, but 150 years ago it was a completely different situation.

The Nanaimo Bastion - Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

The Nanaimo Bastion – Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

This facility is known as the Nanaimo Bastion here on Vancouver Island in BC, Canada.  Today it’s a museum open in the summer months that features all sorts of authentic displays and activities to really immerse the visitor in the entire experience.  The staff wear period-correct costumes, there is a live cannon firing at noon and the displays and features are really amazing, full of great stories and depth with fabulous original photography to illustrate the points.

You’d be surprised as to what has happened here on Vancouver Island in a rather short period of time.  In 1852 the city of Nanaimo did not exist yet.  Settlers were landing on the shores as the HBC (Hudson’s Bay Company) laid plans to colonize and create new avenues for trade.  The landscape is rather unforgiving with sharp, craggy shores and rich, lush forests thick with vegetation that makes work difficult at best, and sometimes near impossible with the tools and technologies they had at the time.  Yet, almost as if a testament to human perseverance, they all came and stayed.

It’s hard to imagine the fear that these early settlers must have lived under.  The constant threat of attack to drive them out often resulted in gruesome situations, only making that fear all the worse.

In 1852 or 1853 HBC decided to do something about this.  Their plan was to build a bastion that the local settlers could all congregate in when things turned bad.  Everyone would assemble in the large upstairs area while others set about firing cannons and small arms out the openings in an effort to drive away the invading forces.

These early times led to early successes for HBC.  These initiatives resulted in creating a thriving new community as well as opening up a new trade channel in an emerging world.  It took only a few short years before this type of defensive structure was no longer needed as more peaceful times set in.  But its symbolic importance and meaning behind the city’s creation deem it an important part of our heritage and history here on Vancouver Island.  Thus it has been setup and preserved as a museum.

From the official Nanaimo Museum website:

The Nanaimo Bastion is the only original wooden bastion in North America. It was constructed in 1853, using traditional construction techniques and tools such as the broad axe. The Bastion was British Columbia’s first building to be preserved when threatened by demolition. It was relocated from its original location in 1891 and has been in continuous use as a heritage attraction and meeting place since then.

The word “bastion” can be used in many different contexts.  It can relate to a military structure, like the one we’ve looked at here today.  It can also be used as a metaphor, such as “his open heart was a bastion of enlightenment” or “this burger joint is certainly the last bastion of cheeseburger-goodness”.  No matter if you are looking at this literally or figuratively, this is an important story in regards to our heritage and remains as a symbol of hope for the future.  After all, if the early settlers endured the challenges they faced to persevere and bring forth a new world, then their determination and personal sacrifices are something that we must take stewardship of in preserving as memories for future generations.  It’s our duty and obligation to our children.

Thanks so much for your kind visit today, we sure do appreciate it!  As always, we love to hear from all our visitors so please do feel free to leave us any comments you may have!




  1. That looks like the ultimate play fort from my childhood imaginings! I know it’s much more serious than that, but its the first thing I thought of when I saw it. To be sure though I’m so impressed by Vancouver islands restoration and preservation efforts, they’re an inspiration and reminder as to why we need to keep these structures around, thanks for sharing them with us.
    Howard

      • Oops, cut that a little short in my excitement. I have to agree totally with Howard’s comments above, it is great that buildings such as this are preserved for future generations.
        But perhaps, more importantly, it’s great that photographers, great photographers visit these buildings and record them as well.
        Really great image Toad and I was toad-tally immersed in colonial Canada for a moment.

        • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

          I just love it when you visit, Chris! Thanks so much, my dear friend, that really means a lot to us!!! 🙂

      • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

        Great thoughts, indeed! Thanks so much for your visit here today, Chris!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      You sir are a scholar and a true gentleman! Thanks, Howard, we sure do appreciate you taking the time to visit and leave us your thoughts here! I think I’m still a kid at heart… I can totally picture you and I playing in that thing, even today! 🙂

  2. avatar dragonflydreams88 says:

    . . . near & dear to my heart ;^)

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Many, many kind thanks for your visit today, my dear friend! So happy to see you visited and left us these comments!!

  3. Seeing the title of this posting I knew immediately that we were going to Nanaimo. Here are my two thoughts. Firstly I seem to remember this Bastion in a rather dilapidated state some years ago, but here it looks in top shape again. Nice. Secondly, when looking at this little building through my camera I have always found it difficult to come up with an interesting and attractive photo. In a photograph one cannot always do much about power lines, but the lowish angle here that eliminates busy backgrounds and separates the small building from its surroundings, I see, helps. The composition, light, and time of the year make this photograph a fine one.. and now I am inspired to go there again and look at the Bastion through a camera.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      You have no idea how much your comments mean to me here, Joseph, thank you my friend!! 🙂 Funny you should mention all this; Mrs. Toad and I spent quite a bit of time trying to take this shot. Composition was real tough for the exact reasons you’ve mentioned here. We tried from several angles and looked at it through different lens and finally came to the conclusion this was the only composition I could pull off that would have a decent end result. I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes open for your post from here! Thank you so, so much for all your friendship and support, Joseph, it sure does mean a lot to us here!

  4. avatar LensScaper says:

    Fascinating building – an oversized Dovecote for Humans. Doesn’t it annoy you how the people from ‘Planning’ can’t treat a building with due respect and festoon it with wires and stick all manner of signage in close proximity to it?! It’s a great shot on a beautiful day. We passed through Nanaimo on our drive down Vancouver Island about 15yrs ago. All I have to do is look up from where I am sitting and I can see the Eagle carving we bought in Nanaimo hanging on a the corner cupboard.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      How wonderful is this? Gosh, Andy, thanks a ton for both your visit and your most wonderful comments! As I mentioned in regards to Joseph’s comments, composition was a real tricky one on this shot due to all the surrounding distractions. This was the best we could do with the lens’ we had at the time. Thank you SO SO much for your terrific personal thoughts here, Andy!

  5. avatar Len Saltiel says:

    Wonderful history lesson and image Toad. I really love Vancouver Island and really should spend more than a day trip there.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      You have a standing invitation here, Len, if ever you do come ’round again please make sure to let us know so we can get together! It would be a true highlight for us!! Thanks so kindly for your visit today, my friend, it means the world!