Our town had been a bustling and growing community for quite some time before the garage was built, but when you consider the modern age we live in it’s easy to imagine that this singular event was a landmark that was one of the catalysts that helped create our town. The Duncan Garage Heritage Building was built in 1912, shortly after Norman Corfield himself drove the first car over the Malahat highway, opening a bridge between the city of Victoria and Duncan, and opening the entire Cowichan Valley up to a much wider audience. This undoubtedly was a keystone event in our town’s history, and one that was at least partially responsible for the growth we’ve seen here over the past 100 years.
On a beautiful Saturday island afternoon, Mrs. Toad and I hopped into our car and headed deep into the woods of Vancouver Island on a shoot we’ve been planning for over a year now. It was a long day finding us in the car for well over 8 hours round-trip. The shoot was a total success and we’ll be featuring those shots in an upcoming post, but while we were making our way back home in the waning hours of the day, we came into town on the way through to The Hollow. As we approached town, the blue hour was in full swing and I found my eyes darting around, looking for that one last shot of the day while taking advantage of the incredible light we had. As we came down the hill into town, I knew what I wanted to shoot… the only question was, was it photogenic at this time of night?
As we rounded the corner by the garage, my answer was immediately evident. It was even more than I could have hoped for.
For those who follow us regularly, you know of our deep-rooted love for the island, and Cowichan Valley in particular. I’ve shot this garage twice before in varying conditions, but this particular night seemed almost magical.
In May of 1913, Canadian Motorist Magazine said of the garage:
The most complete and up-to-date fireproof garage on Vancouver Island
In 2002, Brant Weninger spearheaded “The Duncan Garage Restoration Project” and completely restored the Duncan Garage, turning it into the town’s focal point we all enjoy so much today. The refurbished garage is now a destination for locals and visitors alike, with many different and unique amenities being offered, many of them in harmony with what you’d expect of a small town like ours. When you visit today you will find an organic themed coffee shop and bakery, The Community Farm Store and The Duncan Garage Showroom to name just a few of the stores. A terrific book store also calls the garage home, as does a hair stylist upstairs. This great blend of offerings provides a much-needed diversity while still focusing strongly on the local ties and themes of the valley itself.
It’s little wonder that when we think of landmarks in town, the Duncan Garage is almost certainly one of the first that comes to mind. It’s a place with deep roots in our towns history, but is also serves our more modern times. It does so while maintaining that important link to small-town living and the surrounding communities that rely on it for a myriad of reasons. It’s because of this, and so much more, that when we think of Duncan, we think of the garage.
Many thanks for joining us today on our continuing adventure where we feature our hometown. The rest of our photoblog series “The Toad’s Hometown” showcases many other buildings and attractions in Duncan, please feel free to check out those posts, too. And in closing, we thank you all and encourage you to leave us any comments you may have as we truly love to hear from all our visitors!