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The Nanaimo Bastion


The Nanaimo Bastion is the only original wooden bastion in North America.

The Nanaimo Bastion, also known as the Bastion, is an octagonal shaped fortification located at 98 Front Street. The Hudson’s Bay Company, which then held a royal lease on all of what was then the Colony of Vancouver Island, built it between 1853 and 1855 to defend its coal mining operations when Haida warriors threatened to raid the tiny community in 1852.

The three-story 11 metre structure was hand-built with axes and adze by Jean Baptiste Fortier and Leon Labine. Fortier and Labine used square logs and tongue and grove construction without nails for the walls. The third floor extends out over the lower floors. The Bastion’s first floor contained HBC offices and a store. Later it was used as the city jail. The second floor housed the defence arsenal with its two carronades. The third floor was designed to shelter settlers during an attack. The bastion was rarely used although Haida raids did disrupt coal production on a number of occasions.

The Bastion is known locally as Nanaimo’s premier landmark, because of its shape and high visibility from both land and sea. It was moved a short distance for historic preservation purposes in 1891 and 1979. In 2010, the Bastion was restored when its steel beams were stabilized and rotting boards were replaced. It was designated as a local heritage site on December 12, 1985. Today, the Bastion is operated by the Nanaimo District Museum and is open to visitors during the summer. The Nanaimo Museum has heritage interpreters in costume on site, and hosts a daily cannon firing at noon during the summer months.

Did you know?

1890 – The City of Nanaimo contributed $175 to save the Bastion by moving it across the street.

1890 – The City relinquished any and all interest in the Bastion.

1905 – Native Sons Post 3 purchased lands for the Bastion from the Western Fuel Company for $200.

1920 – The Bastion is exempted from municipal taxes because of its historical status.

1979 – The Bastion was moved a second time when Front Street was widened.

1984 – Native Sons transferred ownership of the building to the Nanaimo Bastion Museum Society.

1986 – Ownership was transferred to the City of Nanaimo after a small restoration project.

1986 – The first Canon Firing Ceremony was held at noon.

1993 – Native Sons’ exhibits were removed.

1993 – A new foundation and sprinkler system were installed.

1996 – The Nanaimo Museum assumed responsibility for the Bastion’s daily operation.

1996 – The Nanaimo Museum developed a new interpretation program for the Bastion.

2010 – The Bastion was restored when its steel beams were stabilized and rotting boards were replaced.


Nanaimo is a centrally located city on the east coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Nanaimo was incorporated as a city in 1874, and has population of more than 83,000. The city is well known for its wealth of recreational opportunities, including biking, boating, hiking, kayaking, scuba diving and snorkelling. Nanaimo is approximately 110 kilometres (68 miles) northwest of Victoria, and 55 kilometres (54 miles) west of Vancouver, separated by the Strait of Georgia, and linked to Vancouver via the BC Ferries Horseshoe Bay Terminal in West Vancouver. As the site of the Departure Bay Ferry Terminal, Nanaimo is the gateway to many destinations on the island, including Campbell River, the Comox Valley, Parksville, Port Alberni, Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park, and Tofino. Destinations off its coastline include Gabriola Island, Newcastle Island, and many Gulf Islands.

Read more about Nanaimo.

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