Duncan City Hall
Duncan City Hall was originally built in 1913 as the Post Office on land sold to the federal government by Harry Smith, a charter member of Temple Lodge, No.33. It was used by Canada Post until 1958, when the Post Office moved a block west to a new facility on Ingram Street.
The former Post Office was slated for demolition in the early 1970’s when Duncan City Council, under Mayor Ken Paskin, a member of Malahat Lodge, No. 107 in Mill Bay, decided to renovate the building into a new City Hall for the City of Duncan. Duncan City Councillors in 1974-75 included Gordon M. Berry and John Homer, both Past Masters of Temple Lodge, No.33. Councillor Martin Lukaitis became a member of Temple Lodge, No. 33 in 1975.
So four Freemasons, Mayor Ken Paskin, City Councillors Gordon M. Berry, John Homer and Martin Lukatis, were instrumental in proposing, planning and completing this renovation project in 1974-75 and saving this landmark building, one of the heritage buildings of downtown Duncan, from demolition.
Here are some contemporary local newspaper reports about the renovation of the former Post Office into Duncan City Hall in 1974-75:
“New City Hall is 62 years old
The official opening Dec. 6  of Duncan’s new city hall will mark a reprieve from the wrecking ball for one of the oldest and certainly the most impressive buildings in the city.
The former post office building, at the corner of Craig and Kenneth streets, was raised in 1913 and served for close to half a century as the clearing house for mail in the Cowichan Valley.
Then, in July 1958, the post office moved to new quarters in Ingram Street, leaving the future uncertain for the weathered landmark.
Canada Manpower operated out of the building for many years before moving to the Financial Centre.
Aging plumbing and wiring and less than modern layout at the old post office offered little attraction to potential tenants and demolition seemed certain for the building until city council moved in 1974 to convert the old landmark into a new home for city hall.
In the summer of that year, voters in the city passed a referendum authorizing an expenditure of $385,000 to renovate the building.
November 1974 saw the start of a massive conversion project.
Walls were removed, new plumbing and wiring installed, the exterior of the building given a face-lift and even the clock was ‘wound up.’
As the project proceeded contractors encountered more trouble with the conversion than had been anticipated and city council amended the earlier borrowing bylaw to allow additional expenditure of $150,000.
Now occupied by the city staff and almost completely refurbished, the venerable old building combines the best of both old and new.
The general office area features up to date, open plan layout, centering around the administrator’s circular office.
On the second floor, a spacious council chamber has seating for 100.
But externally, the building displays the same stalwart brick facade it has had for 62 years.
Nearing completion is an imaginatively designed fountain, intended as a centerpiece for a public walkway area beside the hall on Craig Street.
The public will have an opportunity Dec. 6  to tour the hall and meet their representatives on council.
Council is expected to ask one of the city’s pioneers to open the hall.
“City Hall opens with much pomp and ceremony
Duncan’s new City Hall was reopened Saturday in a ceremony involving several Cowichan Valley dignitaries and interested taxpayers.
Besides the speeches, three gifts were presented to the city. Wes Modeste, newly elected chief of the Cowichan Indian Band, gave Mayor Ken Paskin a Simon Charlie carving of an eagle and a killer whale on behalf of the band. The carving is based on an old Indian legend.
North Cowichan Mayor Gerry Smith presented a silver commemoration plaque on behalf of the council and residents and congratulated Duncan City council on completion of the renovations and on preserving a landmark.
Before cutting the ribbon to officially open the city hall Paskin gave a special thank you to the taxpayers of Duncan who made the building possible.
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