The old Mill Bay Church will soon be converted into a museum that will be used by three local historical societies.
The Mill Bay-Malahat, Bamberton and Cobble Hill historical societies will lease the building and property from the Cowichan Valley Regional District for a five-year period for $1.
Maureen Alexander, president of both the Mill Bay-Malahat and Bamberton historical societies, said Bamberton lost its popular museum two years ago when the Malahat First Nation bought the property where it was located and evicted the museum.
She said the Mill Bay-Malahat society also has a small museum, but the building it’s situated in is now up for sale.
“Cobble Hill is also looking for a venue for a museum, so, about a year and a half ago, we all decided to work together,” Alexander said.
“We approached the CVRD, who were given the church and property for $1 as long as the district continued to maintain it, with a business plan and a budget and began discussing a lease.”
The original Mill Bay Church was built in 1898 and functioned as a Methodist Church until 1925 and as a United Church for many years thereafter.
The church site was donated by the Sylvan United Church to the CVRD in 2007.
Alexander said the societies made a joint request for Canada 150 funding from the province, and received $51,000 to help renovate and convert the building into a museum.
But she said the funding comes with “a lot of strings attached” in regards to plans and budgets, and the whole project must be completed within a year.
“The CVRD has done a great job maintaining the property and the outside of the building, but little has been done inside because the district was unsure as to what it would be used for,” Alexander said.
“We’re not sure if $51,000 is enough, but the societies have agreed to top up that amount and the CVRD have also said they would chip in additional funds as well,” she said.
“After all, the church is the last historical building left in Mill Bay.”
Alexander said the church is not large, but it’s big enough to share and the societies have agreed to set up rotating displays that will be changed periodically.
“That means that we will still need a storage container on site to store materials and displays,” she said.