Discover the Flavour of Duncan

Duncan "The Heart of Cowichan"

Duncan is the Cowichan Valley's largest community, world famous for its many totem poles placed throughout the town also giving Duncan the title of the "City of Totems". Duncan has a large First Nations community and is the traditional home of the Cowichan Tribes, who are the largest band among the Coast Salish people and the makers of the world famous Cowichan Sweaters.

Downtown Duncan is a thriving shopping mecca that you won't want to miss! When driving through Duncan on the Trans Canada Highway be sure to watch for the signs and turn at any of the lights to enter the downtown area and experience the "Heart of the Cowichan Valley".

Come for lunch, shop all day and then stay for dinner! The Downtown Duncan is a unique shopping experience. There is so much to do and see: heritage buildings, totem tours, art galleries, fine restaurants and boutiques - there is nothing else like it on Vancouver Island.

Duncan is also home to the world's largest ice hockey stick, officially recognized by Guinness World Records, on display on the side of the Island Savings Centre Arena. Duncan is a big hockey town and the Vancouver Canucks have hosted their Training Camp at least three times in Duncan. Duncan is the home city of the British Columbia Hockey League's Cowichan Valley Capitals.

2012 marked Duncan's 100th birthday. What was once just a stop on the train ride up from Victoria, is now an entire town. The Downtown Duncan of today is a unique collection of shops and heritage buildings. For a fun look back in time, and a more thorough history of Duncan make sure to visit The Cowichan Valley Museum located at the historical train station on Canada Avenue. Or visit the Forest Discovery Centre on the highway on the north side of Duncan: forest heritage, ecology and resource education programs, see the collection of 12 historical train locomotives, ride the train around the centre and the trestle over Somenos Lake - a precious wetland and one of Duncan's ecological reserves - a popular destination for birders, photographers, canoeing and fishing.

A little history...

Duncan was originally a farm belonging to William Charles Duncan called "Alderlea". It all began on a single day in 1886 when the Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railroad was completed and Mr. Duncan was asked to provide a stop on his farmland for the train. The stop was then aptly referred to as "Duncan's Station". This farmland is what we now know as Downtown Duncan.

In 1895 copper was discovered on Mount Sicker and for the next decade "Lenora" became a bustling mining community. There were approximately 400 people living on the top of the mountain at the turn of the 20th century, more than in the town of Duncan itself. The community included many Chinese workers. When the mine closed, the people of Lenora and even some of the buildings were relocated down into the town of Duncan. Since the closing of the mine, forestry-related industries, agriculture, and tourism have been the main economic forces for the area.

In the early 1900s, Duncan's Chinatown was the social centre for the Cowichan Valley's Chinese population. Chinatown was concentrated in a single block in the southwestern corner of downtown Duncan. At its largest point, Duncan's Chinatown included six Chinese families and 30 merchants supplying loggers, millworkers and cannery and mine workers. When Chinatown was relaced by the lawcourts in 1969, some materials from the original buildings were reconstructed into what is known as Whippletree Junction on the highway south of Duncan. In 2010, a collection of photographs and the story of the original Duncan Chinatown and its peoples was erected in Downtown Duncan to honour the historical Chinese community.

1912 saw the incorporation of the City of Duncan and construction of many of the local buildings that are still standing today. In 1913 a post office was built, which quickly became Duncan's City Hall. Skip forward in time to 1985 when Duncan became the "City of Totems" and it was decided to erect original totems honouring the city's First Nations Heritage.

For more on the history of Duncan and surrounding areas, be sure to visit the Cowichan Valley Museum & Archives on Canada Avenue.