In 1922 Merville had a great fire, which was an apocalypse to those whose lives were consumed in that fiery hell.
The town Headquarters was lost, existing as a ghostly page in history buried in the Cumberland Museum archives, and just like the second-growth forest that sprung from the ashes, so did Merville come into being.
On the Tsolum River, within the second-growth forest, remain the ruins of what was once a sawmill/power station for the logging sawmill town of Headquarters.
In the 1920s, five diesel engines roared 24/7 to keep the occupants in electricity in their new homes until the fire silenced them forever. The powerhouse’s roof burned off, leaving behind concrete floors and walls and some old wooden window frames up high, where the fire did not reach.
Now, the trees with decades of growth stretch over the high walls and canopy the building’s interior from spring to autumn.
The powerhouse became the playground for children living in the area. It was a castle, a fort, and a place of fantasy and theatrical delight.
In the past 14 years it has been a rave palace, a teenage refuge and an underground graffiti art gallery. This building is called Drac’s Kastle by the Merville locals, and not to be confused with the dingy and dangerous place with the same name on the Courtenay Logging road.
This Kastle is a place often visited, but not mentioned to adults, although the adults themselves were once the teens that travelled the same path.
Drac’s Kastle in Merville is a local place that harbours some of the finest graffiti work by local unknown artists. The work is ephemeral and has transformed into educated art form contemporary with global graffiti images to be found on the Internet.
Our local graffiti, to be seen at Drac’s Kastle, rivals New York in its clean execution and superior style. It has changed though the years, as new generations take place of old.
Like the Secret Garden, it is a local icon of the teenage passage into adulthood. Rather than being vandalized, this place is preserved in its decay and the artworks renewed continuously.
Moss carpets the cement floor where broken glass is spread like confetti and found in the layers of soil surrounding the building decades deep just as the layers of paint on the walls.
Local artist AVANH has created concrete canvases and recorded some of the graffiti artworks that existed in Drac’s Kastle in 2011, but are now covered over with more recent works.
These artworks are displayed during August at Serious Coffee at 5-2760 Cliffe Ave. in Courtenay.