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Commercial St.Heritage Walk

The warmth has returned so we decided to strap on the walking shoes and retrace our steps of last year and wander about downtown Nanaimo.  Back then I was surprised to see how much of downtown Nanaimo was steeped in history. Up until then the only knowledge that I had of Nanaimo were the bathtub races and the world famous Nanaimo Bar.

We parked in the lots behind the Court House across from Ginas Cafe and walked to Front Street. The first grand lady encountered was the Globe Hotel. Originally built in 1887 she had additions in the back around 1916 and another in 1936. Thankfully, many downtown buildings remain much as the Globe, escaping our apparent need to 'modernize' their facades over time. Next door the stately Nanaimo Courthouse stands. This Richardsonian Romanesque building was constructed in 1895 under the design of the famous architect, Francis Rattenbury. 

We turned down Church Street to the corner at Commercial Street. On our right stands the majestic Bank of Commerce Building and its four massive columns. Across the street is the Earl Block. Built in 1888 it now houses Perkins, one of my favorite coffee shops. 

Right across the street is the Classic Period Revival style building built by Nanaimo Mayor Albert Planta. Today you can’t miss the beautiful Neon Modern Café Sign which marks the home of a restaurant that’s been here for over 40 years. Warning: The sign may evoke serious feelings of nostalgia.

Right next door to Perkins is the Edwardian style Halse Block. Built in 1909 it was the hub of activity and remains so today. Stop in at Power House Living Foods and enjoy the healthy foods and beverages. 

Turn right onto  Bastion Street and past the Commercial Hotel and Eagles Hall with its deco eagle over the entrance. Turning left on Skinner was like suddenly being transported to a different time where the 1889 Palace Hotel still holds court. 

We were getting a little hungry and spotted the Gusola Block across Commercial Street. Back in 1937 it housed a tobacco and razor repair shop but thankfully today it is the home of a delightful French style cafe known as Mon Petit Choux. The sandwiches were marvelous. 

Finally satiated, we continued down Commercial Street. For you history buffs out there come on down for lunch at one of the many restaurants and enjoy a little sidewalk culture. 

Google in their wisdom has limited the number of waypoints we can place on any given map. Follow this link to the other Commercial St. heritage buildings and those in the Old City Quarter.

  1. Start: Globe Hotel
    The oldest building in the downtown area.
  2. Nanaimo Court House
    This Richardsonian Romanesque building was constructed in 1895 - 96
  3. Bank of Commerce
    The Bank of Commerce is a three-storey Classical Period Revival style built in 1914. 
  4. The Earl Block
    Built in 1888 in the 19th century Italiante style. 
  5. The Halse Block
    Edwardian style commercial building constructed in 1909. 
  6. A. R. Johnson & Co. Grocers
    Constructed in 1898 this building once backed onto the Nanaimo harbour before the inner harbour was infilled. 
  7. Commercial Hotel
    An Edwardian hotel built in 1913.
  8. Eagles Hall
    Art Deco building constructed in 1934 for the fraternal Order of Eagles
  9. Palace Hotel
    Built in 1889, the Palace Hotel is a very good example of the Italianate style, one of the most popular nineteenth century styles in North America.  
  10. End: Gusola Block
    Built in 1937 this Art Deco building was once on the shoreline of the original inner harbour.