Early Duncan business in spotlight with signs

The Duncan Business Improvement Association has given the Cowichan Valley Museum Archives a new chance to exhibit history beyond its home in the Duncan Train Station, taking the community’s past into the present on the streets of Downtown Duncan.

Heritage in Duncan: Early Businesses is a new signage project featuring stories and images of pioneer businesses and heritage buildings. It was commissioned by the BIA to raise awareness of, and foster excitement about, local history.

"We have a lovely small museum in the train station but our display space is limited," said Cowichan Valley Museum and Archives Curator Kathryn Gagnon said about this latest installation. "I’m delighted that the BIA has given us this opportunity to share even more stories from Duncan’s historical record."

Heritage in Duncan: Early Businesses will be officially unveiled on June 23 at 11 a.m. in City Square.

Each sign provides a brief history of the site and incorporates images of both archival photographs and related documents, such as invoices, advertisements, and business cards from the Museum’s collection.

One anecdote included by Gagnon in the new heritage signage project: Colourful Duncan Mayor (1947-1955) James Chesterfield Wragg owned the popular Wragg’s Bakery at 211 Craig St. In 1951, Princess Elizabeth and her new husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, were scheduled to tour Vancouver Island during their visit to Canada. Duncan was not a stop on the tour, however, and Mayor Wragg, never one to be discouraged by an official Royal itinerary, wrote to Buckingham Palace and requested that the schedule be changed to include a stop here. The Palace stated that the itinerary could not be changed, prompting Mayor Wragg to call for a roadblock during the visit! The mayor galvanized residents to link arms across the highway in an effort to disrupt the royal entourage. Thousands of people showed up to see what would happen.

There are many more compelling stories about Duncan’s past to be found in Heritage in Duncan: Early Businesses. Join us on Tuesday, June 23 in City Square at 11 a.m. and help us celebrate Duncan’s historic downtown.

The Cowichan Valley Museum Archives is a not-for-profit organization mandated to collect, research, preserve, and present the history and heritage of the Cowichan Valley. The Museum is located in the heritage designated Duncan Train Station on Canada Avenue. For more information please contact the museum at 250-746-6612 or cvmuseum.archives@shaw.ca