Powell River, British Columbia, is a company town for the pulp and paper industry. It was built after 1910, and has a great store of bungalows, built for the workers at the Mill. There are also some wonderful public buildings in the town that are great to visit.
In this article, we explore the historic townsite of Powell River and some of the early residential and public architecture that was built in this sea-side town.
For more detailed information (with lots of photographs) on the styles of bungalow homes in the town, please see the article in Classic Bungalows:
But a bit of historical and geographic background first, so it all makes sense…
The town of Powell River is tucked away on the coast of British Columbia, Canada. A town of around 20,000 people, it is at the most northerly end of the world’s longest highway [‘Highway 101’] that connects Canada south all the way to Chile in South America. Powell River is about five hours drive north of Vancouver, and requires a couple of ferry rides to traverse the deep fjords along this part of the remote British Columbia coastline.
A pulp mill, the first in Western Canada to produce newsprint, began construction in Powell River in 1908, and production of newsprint commenced in 1912. The pulp mill grew to being the world’s largest newsprint mill in the 1960’s.
In 1910, the townsite began to be laid out by The Powell River Company, with the majority of the townsite being designed by Scottish-born John McIntyre when he was townsite manager between the years 1919 to 1931. Streets of bungalows were constructed over about a ten block area, most having views of the ocean. Neighbourhoods that placed workers in the same occupation together were planned.
As the mill expanded in the 1920’s, the original town plan was extended and additional housing of sympathetic design was constructed to the south along gentle crescents laid out on the heavily forested hillside.
The houses that were built consist of groups of houses having a number of standardized designs, all recognizable today as variations on ‘bungalow’ lines – even with inevitable later changes.
A small downtown was also built by the Company with some frankly amazing civic buildings that are still there today. The old townsite of Powell River, British Columbia was designated a National Historic District in 1995.
The Historic Townsite is one of only a few professionally planned, single-industry towns dating from the early modern period in Canadian town planning that has been caringly preserved and restored by its residents.