Tribute to Chilliwack aviation pioneer will light up liquor store roof

Feb 7, 2020

Photo: Chilliwack Museum and Archives

The neon-lit artwork ‘will really sing after dark’ for downtown motorists and pedestrians.

A new public art project downtown will pay tribute to a colourful figure from Chilliwack’s storied past. Council approved the placement of ‘Golden Eagle,’ a $42,000 artwork being privately commissioned by Anthem KRC Salish Plaza Ltd. to be installed atop the B.C. Liquor Store in Salish Plaza.

The “Golden Eagle” is a reference to an airplane of the same name flown by Chilliwack entrepreneur and aviation enthusiast, Earl Brett, in the early 1930s.

Brett started several business ventures around the burgeoning auto industry, as well as logging and mining, but he also became very passionate about aviation. He is recognized for generally popularizing flying in Chilliwack, and for opening the first airport in a field on Sumas Prairie in 1931.

His plane, Golden Eagle, was eventually hoisted onto the roof of Brett’s Garage, for all of Chilliwack to see at Young and Princess.

“We believe the piece submitted will be a welcomed and celebrated artwork for downtown Chilliwack, which complements the City (of Chilliwack’s) initiatives in revitalizing downtown, and will provide perpetual promotion of the plaza and downtown by creating a public art attraction,” according to the Dec. 10 letter about the artwork, sent to city officials from Anthem Properties.

The impressive scale of the piece will be seven feet high and 20 feet wide against a 68-foot wide façade.

“Older generations may remember looking up at Brett’s plane,” according to the Anthem letter.

At the council meeting before the placement was approved, Coun. Jeff Shields asked if the art work was going to be “a picture or a sculpture/structure.”

Coun. Sue Knott replied it is “a structure that is made out of neon” to follow the outline of the original plane atop Brett’s.

“Now the owners of Salish Plaza have requisitioned this piece and it is a replica of that exact airplane but in neon.”

Coun. Shields brought up the fact that it wasn’t going to be in the precise location where the plane was sited.

“If they actually wanted to make it perfect they would put it on the CIBC building, because that’s where it originally was, right on that corner,” Shields said.

Coun. Knott replied that “for whatever reason” the artwork is destined for the liquor store instead, and since the plaza owner is paying the $42,000 they can determine where the best spot for it would be.

One way or another, the neon-lit artwork will be visible from near and far downtown.

“Golden Eagle will really sing after dark for evening shoppers and drivers along Yale Road,” according to Anthem documents in the staff report.

(News Source: Black Press Media, The Chilliwack Progress, )