Nanaimo’s oldest building and the sole reminder of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s singular coal mining venture, the Bastion is the physical evidence of the community’s earliest European social and economic development.
The Bastion, built between 1853-1855, is the only known remaining freestanding tower structure built by the Hudson’s Bay Company. As such, it is a unique example of a defense fortification built by a company that played a major role in Canadian history.
The Bastion’s unusual octagonal shape and high visibility from both land and sea make it Nanaimo’s premier landmark.
The Bastion represents British Columbia’s earliest case of historic preservation and is an important example of the changing approaches to heritage conservation. It originally stood on the other side of Front Street, and was moved in 1891 after its original site was sold. In 1974, it was moved to its present location in another preservation effort. The building’s environmental context, overlooking the harbour, has never changed.
During the settlement’s early history, the Bastion represented a beacon of civilization in the wilderness, and provided the focus for social and economic growth in the new community. Now used as a museum, it has been a continuous part of Nanaimo’s history, and remains a source of pride to the city. The Bastion is a municipally designated heritage site, and is listed on the Canadian Register of Heritage Properties.
Behind the Bastion a flight of steps leads down to the spot where the “Princess Royal Pioneers” landed in 1854 after a six month’s voyage around Cape Horn. The site is marked by a cairn and plaque on Pioneer Rock.