Another Centennial Project to Remember: The Big Nickel

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Another Centennial Project to Remember: The Big Nickel
Published in JOURNEYS INTO... | almost 4 years ago

A Journey into Canada-150

We have recently shared with you some tidbits from Colin Ripley and Marco Polo's interesting work Architecture and National Identity: The Centennial Projects 50 Years On.

In it they write about the approximately 860 modern day buildings across the country that were constructed as centennial projects.

We recently profiled some of the important buildings in Canada that were made possible through the Centennial Project.

There will also some "fun" structures that came to be as part of the project.

For example, there is the UFO Landing pad in St. Paul, Alberta, of which we wrote in an earlier posting. Another is the "Big Nickel" in Sudbury, Ontario.

The Big Nickel is a nine-metre (30 ft) replica of a 1951 Canadian nickel, located at the grounds of the Dynamic Earth science museum in Sudbury.

The idea for the Big Nickel began in 1963 when Ted Szilva, at the time a 28-year-old City of Sudbury fireman.

Sudbury has been known as a nickel mining centre since 1902, when Inco - the International Nickel Company - was founded there. A rich deposit of nickel had been discovered there in 1884, shortly after the expansion of the Canadian Pacific Railway through northern Ontario. Sudbury produces about 30 per cent of the world's nickel.

Szilva had read in the Sudbury Star of a contest, sponsored by the Sudbury Canada Centennial Committee (Maurice Lacourciere, Chairman), asking Sudbury residents how the City should celebrate the upcoming Canadian Centennial. Szilva put forward the suggestion for a major tourist attraction featuring a giant replica of a five-cent coin, an underground mine and a mining science centre. Szilva’s idea was rejected because the committee felt that "it did not have sufficient use for the citizens of Sudbury as such".

But Szilva did not give up. He pursued the project on his own. The Big Nickel became the centrepiece in the Canadian Centennial Numismatic Park on the outskirts of Sudbury and opened on July 22, 1964.

In 2001 the Big Nickel, which had since become the property of Science North, Sudbury's science museum, was taken down for refurbishing. It was returned to its hilltop site in 2003 alongside Dynamic Earth, a new tourist attraction that takes visitors underground to learn about mining and geology.