OLD NEWS: This week in Saanich history – March 2-8

The News’ weekly historical feature looks at a 1989 fire that destroyed the Nellie McClung library in Saanich

Staff from the Greater Victoria Public Library were frantically moving books into a temporary space on Garnet Road this week in 1990, in preparation for the opening of ‘Little Nell’.

The Nellie McClung branch of the GVPL was destroyed by fire on Dec. 3, 1989, leaving a noticeable hole in the community. So the library set up a small, makeshift location a few blocks away – with no chairs, tables, study space or newspapers section – to fill that void until a replacement could be built.

“I think people in the neighbourhood will be very glad to see their local library back,” then-GVPL chief librarian Lee Teal said in the March 7, 1990 issue of the Saanich/Gordon Head News. The temporary branch held about 30,000 books, roughly the same amount that is housed at the newly opened Emily Carr branch.

The cause of the fire, which destroyed 45,000 books, was never determined.

“They considered many different things but there wasn’t anything to substantiate the cause or what actually caused the fire. It’s not usual, given the amount of damage that had been sustained in the fire,” said Assistant Chief Rich Pala, who last week retrieved the fire investigation report, filed in January 1990. “They’ve identified the area of origin being in the circulation desk area, but they don’t have the point of origin. Without that, you can’t conclusively state what the heat source was.”

The Nellie McClung library, as it is known today, reopened in August 1991.

Alyssa Polinsky, director of communications and community development for GVPL, says in December 2013 the current Nellie McClung branch was identified as being a top upgrade priority.

“It’s got a growing number of users, it’s one of our busiest branches, the space that we have there isn’t configured for that many people or the way people use the library anymore,” she said.

Despite being nearly a quarter-century old, it’s suffering from similar issues that plagued the former Emily Carr branch, which was 41 when it was replaced in January.

Polinsky says the current Nellie McClung branch isn’t equipped with enough space for computers, meeting areas or power outlets where library users can plug in their laptops and portable electronics.

The District of Saanich owns the building and provides the space for the GVPL to use.

editor@saanichnews.com

••••••

In other news this week…

• 1992 – A $10-million expansion of Claremont secondary school gets the OK from the Ministry of Education. The school was originally built to hold 600 students, but enrolment had ballooned to more than 800 in the 1991-92 school year – and required nine portables to accommodate those bodies. Today the school houses 1,210 students – with zero portables, and principal Bruce Frith says there is currently no need to expand.

• 1999 – Victoria Salsa owner Mark Wagstaff proposes an idea to build a new 6,000-seat arena for the hockey team at Saanich’s public works yard. While Mayor Frank Leonard said the door was open for discussion, the idea didn’t fit in with Saanich’s recreation guidelines. In 2006 the Salsa were renamed the Grizzlies. The team now plays out of 100.3 The Q Centre in Colwood.

2002 – Saanich council agrees to kick in $1.82-million over 10 years to help replace Victoria’s Memorial Arena. Victoria would, in exchange, provide space for the Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame and PacificSport, both of which were based out of Saanich Commonwealth Place at the time.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

One person is dead after a camper van caught fire Thursday morning in Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
One person dead after vehicle fire in Beacon Hill Park

Investigation into Victoria death in early stages

Protestors against old growth logging gather in front of the courthouse in Victoria on Thursday morning. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Fairy Creek protesters gather at Victoria courthouse

Logging company seeks injunction to remove blockades near its Port Renfrew operation

A recently finished $4.3-million taxiway extension at the Victoria International Airport (not pictured) is unusable because of a blind spot. (Black Press Media file photo)
Blind spot leaves Victoria airport’s new $4.3-million taxiway extension unusable

Solution has been put on hold by COVID-19 pandemic, says airport authority

Const. Mat Jones of the CRD Integrated Road Safety Unit joined a team of Saanich police officers and ICBC representatives cracking down on distracted driving at the McKenzie/Quadra intersection in Saanich on March 3. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
‘Leave the phone alone’: 40 distracted driving tickets issued in two hours at Saanich intersection

Saanich police, CRD Integrated Road Safety Unit crackdown on drivers’ cell-phone use

Clockwise from top left: Malahat First Nation Chief George Harry and councillors Steve Henry and Cindy Harry address community members in a video posted to YouTube on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (Screenshot)
Malahat Nation confirms first two cases of COVID-19

Community has been under stay-at-home order since Jan. 7

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of March 2

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: How’s your butter?

Recent reports have some Canadians giving a second look to one of… Continue reading

The Regional District of Nanaimo’s board is forwarding a motion on illegal dumping to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities’ upcoming annual general meeting. (Kane Blake photo)
Island communities asked to join forces in seeking help fighting illegal dumping

RDN resolution to be forwarded to Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon speaks in the B.C. legislature, describing work underway to make a small business and tourism aid package less restrictive, Dec. 10, 2020. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends deadline for tourism, small business COVID-19 grants

Business owners expect months more of lost revenues

Mid day at the Vancouver Port Intersection blockade on March 3, organized by the Braided Warriors. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
Anti-pipeline blockade at Vancouver intersection broken up by police

Demonstraters were demanding the release of a fellow anti-TMX protester

(Government of B.C.)
Chelsea Harry was last seen Feb. 21. Photo via Comox Valley RCMP
Vancouver Island RCMP seeking help locating a missing woman

Missing person last seen in Courtenay on Feb. 21

Backcountry skiers are dwarfed by the mountains as they make their way along a mountain ridge near McGillivray Pass Lodge located in the southern Chilcotin Mountains of British Columbia, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012. Avalanche Canada has issued a special warning to people who use the backcountry in the mountains of western Alberta and eastern British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Avalanche Canada special warning for mountains in western Alberta, eastern B.C.

Avalanche Canada also says everyone in a backcountry party needs essential rescue gear

Most Read