It was this day in 1958 that the "Italian Centennial Fountain" was unveiled in downtown Nanaimo. 

Colour photo of Nanaimo's Italian Centennial Fountain from a 1958 postcard

A lot of people are underwhelmed by this sculpture - probably because of its location, which does nothing whatsoever to highlight the fountain's beauty. Moreover, the fountain has been fenced off with ugly temporary fencing in recent years, presumably because of vandalization and sanitary concerns related to people without homes.

Nanaimo's Italian Centennial Fountain as seen in Google Streetview, 2023

Photo from 2000s showing Nanaimo's Italian Fountain covered in ice and icicles at nightBut really, especially when you consider that this was done on a small budget, mostly by volunteers, and that the granite blocks were mined from a boulder that was left in Yellow Point by a glacier - it's a pretty cool installation. Its story involves a local couple who came back from a vacation in Italy - they suggested to Pete Maffeo, the Italian mayor of Nanaimo, that maybe we could do a fountain too? Ultimately, two Italian service clubs (lodges) stepped up with fundraising and volunteer labour to present this gift to the people of Nanaimo. Hence the "Italian" fountain!

So why is it called the Italian "Centennial" Fountain

In our City's "Public Art Inventory", it's said that the fountain was designed in 1958 and took three years to build. But it also says the fountain "was given to the City of Nanaimo in 1958 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the crown colony of British Columbia". (Perhaps it didn't actually take 3 years? Something's amiss.)

Vintage 1950s/1960s black and white photo showing people hanging out at the Italian Centennial Fountain in Nanaimo BC

By the way, some readers may be confused by the topography in the old photos, because they show a bluff in the background. That bluff was blasted away when they built the mall - a piece of it remains in Bowen Park, near the duck pond, commemorating "Scotchman's Bluff". 

Posted by Gerry Thomasen on
Email Send a link to post via Email

Leave A Comment

Please note that your email address is kept private upon posting.