Ladysmith was established nearly overnight as a shipping port for James Dunsmuir’s coal mining business at Extension. Because of this, many of the miners working for Dunsmuir relocated not only their families but their actual houses to Ladysmith from the nearby mining towns of Wellington and Extension. These homes were dismantled, shipped via railway, and re-assembled in their new real estate lots at Ladysmith. Most of these “recycled” homes were erected around the area currently known as “Donkey Hill”; named after the “steam donkey”, a mining engine, that was used as winch to get the disassembled houses up the hill to their new lots.
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The charming coastal town of Ladysmith stretches along an inlet of the Salish Sea, on the eastern shores of Vancouver Island. The town’s slogan reflects the most beautiful aspect of life in Ladysmith: “A View to the Sea”. Originally named Oyster Harbour, the town lies exactly on the 49th parallel and is bordered on one side by the sea, and on the other by a vast expanse of natural Cowichan Valley woodlands, trails, and parks.

Ladysmith’s primary industries are tourism, agriculture, and lumber. Despite it’s modest size and population, Ladysmith is well favored by vacationers and those looking to relocate to a place rich in natural beauty, clean air, and serene views of seascape and hills. The most prominent resident of the town is the Canadian actress and Playboy Playmate, Pamela Anderson. Because of its sheltered harbour location, the town is also attractive to boating enthusiasts and the town has a lively Marina community and the best facilities for mooring (Ladysmith Community Marina, and Ladysmith Marina).

The original inhabitants of the area were the people of the Stz’uminus First Nation who thrived on the rich sources of fish and shellfish the harbour offered. With the arrival of European pioneers and colonists, the town became a company coal mining town populated by the families of coal miners working for the coal baron, James Dunsmuir, who re-named the town from Oyster Harbour to Ladysmith in commemoration of the British victory at the siege of Ladysmith in South Africa during the Second Boer War. The South African town of Ladysmith was named after Juana Maria de los Dolores de Leon Smith, the Spanish wife of Sir Harry Smith, the British Governor of the Cape Colony.

Much of the town’s coal mining heritage is still visible in the well preserved buildings along First Avenue, the heart of the town’s activity, and the surrounding area. The majority of these heritage structures are commercial buildings and hotels that date back to the early 1900’s. The one exception is the Nicholson House, which had been built on Ladysmith’s First Avenue in 1899 by the influential miner, contractor, and later mayor, Donald Nicholson, in anticipation of the arrival of his future bride, Isabella McKinnon. It was converted to a store in the 1920’s. Nicholson and his family were one of the pioneer families in Ladysmith. Nicholson’s construction business contributed to much of the growth of First Avenue as the commercial centre of the town and were responsible for the construction of many of the historic buildings in Ladysmith.

 

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