Stewarding Vancouver’s Centennial Totem Pole

The Centennial Pole was carved by Chief Mungo Martin with his son David and nephew Henry Hunt in 1958. Standing on City land adjacent to Hadden Park, just south of the Maritime Museum, it is one of two identical totem poles commissioned by the Province to commemorate 100 years of British Columbia’s colonial history to that date. The second pole was presented to Queen Elizabeth and stands in Windsor Great Park, Berkshire, England. Both poles are 100ft (30.5m) tall.

On June 17, 2014, City Council proclaimed Vancouver a City of Reconciliation in response to Reconciliation Canada’s national call to action to help build more inclusive communities. Planning for the restoration and conservation needs of the Centennial Pole supports this commitment and acknowledges the importance of this cultural asset for the city.

PRESERVATION & PUBLIC SAFETYCulture - Public Art - Civic - Mungo Martin - Centennial Pole - Image 02 - Photo by Maxime Cyr-Morton - 2013

Extensive maintenance was performed in 1986 and the pole’s condition has been monitored during the intervening years. However, the effects of time and weather can be seen in areas of deterioration on the pole. A condition assessment and structural analysis conducted in 2014 indicated decay at the base of the Centennial Pole, placing its stability at risk in the event of exceptionally strong winds. To secure the pole and ensure public safety, a temporary structural support system was installed mid-December. It is expected to be in place for up to two years.

The stabilization approach has been designed to minimize physical impact on the pole and its artistic components. Key features include: buttresses made of Western red cedar timber to prevent the pole from bending, and a ring of compression pads at the point of contact to protect the surfaces. The fully reversible system protects both the pole’s historic timber, and its painted surfaces, without fastening or boring into the surface.

CONSERVATION & STEWARDSHIPSite map of Centennial Pole.png

Expert conservators indicate there is no consensus approach to totem pole conservation. The stabilization scheme is designed to last a minimum of two years providing ample time to identify and evaluate a permanent conservation solution.

A planning process will begin in the spring of 2015 to confirm long-term viability and to determine future restoration and conservation opportunities. This will involve extensive consultations with a variety of stakeholders including Mungo Martin’s descendants.

It is hoped there will be opportunities to include mentorships in the permanent conservation program.



  • E-mail
  • Call 3-1-1 and ask for the Public Art Program

One thought on “Stewarding Vancouver’s Centennial Totem Pole

  1. The solution is obvious. Install the historic pole inside in a public place and commission a young First Nations artist to carve new one in its current location outside.v


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