Partnership and Development of the Church

Sep 1, 2022 | 0 comments

From an article by Brenda Krug

The former Mill Bay United Church at 2851 Church way in Mill Bay, the second oldest remaining building in Mill Bay, and its surrounding cemetery, had become a South Cowichan Park in 2007, after its congregation had amalgamated with the one from Shawnigan Lake, and moved to the new Sylvan United Church on Shawnigan-Mill Bay Road.

The Bamberton Museum, situated on the site of the old Bamberton Cement Plant, had to close in late summer 2016 when the property changed hands, and the new owners’ plans did not include a museum. At almost the same time, the Mill Bay/Malahat Historical Society had to remove its museum from the Pioneer Square Mall when the unit they had been occupying without charge was rented out. This left both societies in search of suitable space for their exhibits, and they approached the Cobble Hill Historical Society to join them in finding accommodation for all three organizations.

Several sites were examined, but each had too many difficulties associated with it to be seriously considered. The societies moved their artifacts into rented storage, and continued their search.

The Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) performed major renovations on the property totaling over $275,000, but before doing completion work, requested expressions of interest for its future use. Although the building is small, it has several advantages: a heritage designation, it is in a central location, the remaining renovations were within the financial scope of the three historical societies, and the rent would be nominal.

The societies sent off their joint proposal for the conversion of the building interior to a museum to the CVRD. The proposal was accepted, and the societies then formed a separate Heritage Museum Partnership to negotiate a lease, perform the renovations, administrate, and maintain the site. The lease was signed, and the construction work was to proceed in stages as finances permitted.

In the spring of 2017, the partners applied for, and received a BC/Canada 150 Grant administered through the British Columbia Museums Association. This grant provided funding for the immediate conversion of the former church into an exhibit space.

Under the guidance of Brenda and John Krug the renovations proceeded. The pews and the raised area at the front of the nave were removed, and the floor and wainscoting were repaired and refinished creating the maximum space for exhibition. A heat pump, and a built in vacuum system were installed in the crawl space under the building, providing an even temperature and efficient dust removal that are essential in the preservation of artifacts. A Juliet balcony was constructed from the church pews and railings. They were a beautiful addition enhancing the limited space in the museum. The new cabinetry provides an organized storage space for small items, and an office and sales display area. Modern lighting, repairs to the walls, new fire doors, insulation in the ceiling and walls, window repairs, and new shutters were also among the modifications. The most dramatic effect is the new paint scheme that highlights the windows and also emphasizes the lovely wainscoting along the walls. During one of the previous renovations on the church, this wainscoting had been hidden behind a layer of plywood that was painted a dull beige.

The Mill Bay/Malahat Historical Society acquired an additional repository for its many artifacts. It purchased a portable unit that provides climate controlled storage and office space. This unit sits on the museum site just across from the main building. A new roof and porch were added to provide a faux historical façade.


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