Small-town museums are treasure troves of information that help connect people to a local place. They provide an opportunity to preserve a community’s heritage and often times the families who pioneered it. One such museum is a local jewel that brings to life the history of Parksville and its surrounding areas.
The Parksville Museum
How often have you driven by the grounds near the Parksville Visitor Centre on the Island Highway and not stopped to take a look? I am guilty of this very thing far too many times to count. However, last week I finally took the time to explore Craig Heritage Park (Parksville museum) and discovered just how engaging it really is.
The Parksville Museum showcases local artifacts, photographs, documents and preserved historical buildings to view and explore. And the information provided is as equally important to us locals as it is to out-of-town guests.
A Bit of History
The Parksville & District Historical Society was established in 1976 as the District 69 Historical Society. In 1983, the Society opened Craig Heritage Park (the museum grounds).
The Knox United Church, built in 1912, was the first heritage building moved to the Park. Today, the Park is home to the Englishman River building which houses the main museum archives, and 9 other historical outbuildings.
The Buildings and History of Parksville
Along with the array of historical artifacts located in the main building, the museums heritage buildings give us a glimpse into the life of early Parksville settlers.
Craig Cottage & Cabin
Built by James Craig in 1930, the two onsite heritage buildings were originally part of Craig’s on the Sea Auto Camp. The camp operated from the 1930s to 1980s with two types of accommodations, the cabins and the cottages to house visiting travelers.
The Craig Cabin is now home to the Oceanside Model Rail Roaders which showcases model replicas of the local railways.
The Post Offices
There are two heritage post offices onsite. Craig’s Crossing Post Office opened in 1914 and was in use until 1935. However, even older is the French Creek Post Office, which operated from 1888 until 1912. This unique building served a number of local communities including Lasqueti Island.
Knox Heritage Church
As a result of the E & N Railway the town of Parksville saw expansion in the early 1900’s. And, as typical of all small towns, a church was built. The Knox Heritage Church first opened its doors in 1918 and is still today a venue for many weddings. It is important to note that the stained glass windows at the back of the church are the original.
The Fire Hall
As a response to the threat of air raids during WWII, the fire hall was built in 1943 by local volunteers. The 1950 Ford Pumper Firetruck that is on display at the museum appears every year in the Parksville Canada Day parade much to the delight of onlookers.
In operation from 1909 until 1920, this building was converted into a school for the children who lived between Craig’s Crossing and Nanoose Bay. The school house was originally a surveyor’s cabin during the construction of the E&N Railway, but was moved to the farm of James Craig to operate as a school in 1909. The heritage building showcases some of the original school desks as well as the school bell.
The oldest heritage building at the museum is the McMillan House. The home was originally built in 1885 in Errington for Duncan McMillan who was one of the first Europeans to claim a plot of land in the area. At the time, the house was considered a mansion.
The great thing about small museums is that they are usually very kid-friendly. This is definitely the case for the Parksville Museum. What is often behind glass at more sophisticated locations, at this museum almost everything is out in the open to touch, feel and explore. (Please follow the guidelines if you are asked not to touch something).
Have your kids sit in the school desks which were used in the early 1900’s. Or see how small the beds were in the late 1800’s while exploring the McMillan House. (My kids got a kick out of this fact).
Throughout the year, the museum offers special events including a market, musical performances, and kid-friendly activities. You can stay up to date on these local events by visiting their Facebook page.
It’s truly a fun place to visit for a relaxed and informal education of the history of Parksville and surrounding areas. The Parksville Museum is a low key attraction that is definitely worth a stop!
Even More History
While at the museum I was thrilled to purchase a book about the history of Parksville. Written by Marjorie Leffler, Parksville & then some captures the historic stories of local families and how they influenced and shaped the town we all know and love today.
This book would be of interest to anyone who is at all associated with Parksville and its surrounding areas (Nanoose Bay, Errington, and Coombs). And, of course, those who are interested in history in general…especially as it relates to Vancouver Island.
(The other books about Vancouver Island shown in the image above can all be found in the article: Vancouver Island Books & Authors)
Entry Fee and Hours
Admission is by donation, with a suggested fee of $5.00 per person or $10 per group or family.
The museum is typically open Thursdays – Sundays for select time periods. Before going, please check their website for current hours of operation.
The Parksville Museum is located at 1245 Island Hwy East. (You park in the same parking lot as the Parksville Visitor Centre).
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