How fortunate are we to live in a community that honours and conserves its heritage? How many people live in places that actively celebrate over FIVE THOUSAND YEARS of history and heritage? Each morning as I sip my first coffee of the day and gaze across the Ladysmith harbour, I am reminded that for thousands of years, those waters have been home to and provided a living for the first residents of this land. And each morning as I arrive at my business on Ladysmith's historic First Avenue, I am filled with awe and gratitude for the colourful buildings that proudly stand as permanent reminders not only of what once was, but of the possibilities that can arise when a community decides its history is something to be both valued and preserved.
More than 100 years ago, the Ladysmith Trading Company building that currently houses several businesses, including my own, was a bustling department store where people purchased their dry goods. Today, I feel so privileged to work in that beautiful old structure. The shelving that now holds computers and other modern equipment was once used to display clothing and shoes. We tried to retain as much of the original shelving and fixtures as possible and have even kept some of the former 'sale' signs that would have been placed strategically around the store back in the day.
Another heritage building that brings back many memories is the antiques shop at the corner of Roberts and the highway. There's a reason it's called Post Office Antiques - years ago, it was actually Ladysmith's post office. Some of you may know that I spent much of my childhood there. My bedroom was in one of the upstairs apartments and after school, I worked in the shop itself, refinishing antique furniture and rewiring lamps. Upon reflection, I've realized that my first job – revitalizing vintage items and making them as good as new – was a theme that would follow me throughout my adult life in this community. Like many other Ladysmith residents, I was raised to see the value in the past and to remember where I came from.
Each year during the third week in February, communities across the country showcase their local heritage – this year’s BC Heritage Week theme is 'Heritage Stands the Test of Time'. The rich history of our Stz'uminus First Nation partners and neighbours, the stewards of the land who preceded us and whose rich history is woven throughout our community like the threads in a tapestry, has truly withstood the test of time. The Stz'uminus continue to practice many aspects of their traditional lifestyle, preserving a culture and heritage that spans thousands of years, while also setting their sights on future opportunities for thoughtful growth and development. It makes them a wonderful example of an enduring legacy and also an excellent partner for the Town.
From our vast array of heritage buildings, to our life-size heritage artifacts, to our very own museums, to First Nations art installations like the Salish Wind, a beautiful red cedar canoe permanently displayed at Transfer Beach, Ladysmith does an excellent job all year long of bringing the past to life while simultaneously forging ahead on new initiatives. This had never been more evident than the way our Ladysmith Heritage Walks link the vibrant history of our buildings and artifacts with the waterfront area and Transfer Beach Park. Whether we are restoring an old building or planning a new development, we always do so in a thoughtful and progressive manner.
There's something comforting about a community that values its history and its heritage. I can walk down most streets in our town and be reminded of something or someone from long ago - the past is captured in the signs, the sidewalks, the structures and the people. It's everywhere. It's also easy to forget the past when we are caught up in everyday activities and hassles. The next time you go for a walk or drive through our community, I challenge you to look for symbols of years gone by. Grab a free brochure from City Hall, the Visitor's Centre or a downtown business and treat yourself and your family to a heritage walking tour of Ladysmith's artifacts and buildings. You may be surprised by how much you didn't realize stood here long before you, your parents or even your grandparents were born. You might also be pleasantly shocked to know just how much of our heritage has been lovingly preserved so that years from now, your children, your grandchildren and others can also enjoy Ladysmith's vibrant history and small town charm.