Portable buildings are not a new or uncommon phenomenon in Whistler. Since the formation of the municipality many civic and social institutions have been housed within these portable buildings, shifting, adding and removing spaces as the community has grown. Before the construction of the village, Whistler’s bank, liquor store and post office operated out of trailers (leading to one of the most straight forward bank robbery attempts – hitch it up in the night and drive away). The Whistler Health Care Centre also began in a trailer located at the base of Creekside. In the 1990s some municipal departments were located in trailers outside Municipal Hall and before the opening of Spring Creek Elementary in 2004 Whistler’s growing population meant that more students at Myrtle Philip Community School were taught in portable classrooms on the school grounds than inside the building.
Here at the Whistler Museum it’s natural for us to have an interest in the histories of these scattered portables; after all, we call one of them home. The current space occupied by the museum began its journey in Whistler as the Canada Post building. After the post office moved into its current location in Market Place in 1993 the trailer sat empty until its revival in 1995.
In 1994 the Whistler Public Library was searching for a new building as the lease on their space in the basement of the municipal hall was nearing its end. After examining several options the library board decided that the WPL would move into the old Canada Post trailers that would be moved to Main Street (at the same time the museum moved into an adjacent trailer on the current site of Florence Petersen Park). When Canada Post had vacated the trailers they had left behind the counter and cupboards. These were reconfigured to be used in the library and for the thirteen years in which the trailer housed the library the circulation desk bore the colours of Canada Post.
The library operated out of this trailer from January, 1995, until its move up the road to its permanent building in January, 2008. Locals coming into the museum today may remember attending story time where our offices now sit and can wander through our exhibits as they once wandered through the stacks.
After the library moved the Whistler Museum took over the building in 2008. Some major renovations were needed to rework the space (time had not treated the portable well; carpets needed to be removed and leaks addressed, as well as more structural and cosmetic changes) but by the end of 2009 this trailer had reopened its doors in its third reincarnation. The removal of the adjacent trailers, the addition of a large mural and the development of Florence Petersen Park have made the space almost unrecognizable as the former library parking lot. To those who have not yet visited, though, the washrooms might still seem eerily familiar.