Thursday, October 02, 2008

Powell River - 2

Thursday, September 18:

Thursday, our last full day at Powell River, we realized there was still much of the town we hadn't seen. We decided to take ourselves on a self-guided tour of the old Powell River townsite (along with one of the brochures from the Info Centre, of course).

The town started as a single industry resource-based town -- still today its main industry is the paper mill. It was built on the Garden City concept -- an English planning principle meant to keep industrial towns beautiful.

The town was designed with the workers in mind. Many of its features were put there to encourage people to relocate to this isolated wilderness. The town was built so that workers of the same occupations were in the same neighborhood. The first building was built in 1911. Here are some of the preserved houses - along with a few facts about each.

  • Postmaster's House (now the Townsite Heritage Society headquarters) - 1912
Craftsman Style house and home of the first two postmasters. (I can't believe how much this house reminds me of the farmhouse I grew up in!)

  • Bank of Montreal Building - 1931
Designed by John McIntyre the Powell River Company's Townsite Manager who designed all Townsite construction between 1919 and 1935. I love the Tudor Revival design and the vines clinging to exteror walls.

  • The Federal Building - 1939.
This beautiful brick building housed the post office, Customs and Excise and the Canadian Telegraph operations -- until 1974.

  • Dwight Hall (the "Grand Old Lady of the Townsite") - 1927.
This beautiful hall was the centerpiece of Powell River society. The sprung dance floor could hold 800 people and it was the venue for concerts, plays and gatherings of all sorts. It is still used for community events.

  • The Cenotaph beside Dwight Hall - 1929.

  • The Provincial Building - circa 1939.
This building was home to the B. C. Police, courtroom, forestry service, public works, housed a government agent, relief services and jail cells until 1980. It is now privately owned.

  • The Rodmay Hotel (first called the Powell River Hotel) - 1911.
It's hard to believe that for the first few years pigs were kept just outside this grand building. It's still used as a hotel. In fact, I had an excellent Greek salad in the cafe. I also had a glimpse of the grand vestibule and staircase, still looking good after all these years.

  • Dr. Henderson's House - circa 1911

  • St. Luke's Hospital - 1913
Built for Dr. Henderson, who was the first practicing physician in Powell River. Apparently he implemented the first medical plan in B.C. in 1910.

  • Oceanview Apartments - 1916.
These apartments housed married employees without children. A unique feature was the basement room for laundry and coal storage for each unit. They are still in use today (the apartments, not the coal rooms).

  • Church Corner with St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church - 1916 and St. John's Union (for all Protestant denominations) - 1913. These buildings are now privately owned.

  • Patricia Theatre - 1928.
This theatre houses the oldest continuously operating cinema and vaudeville business in western Canada.

  • Powell River Pulp and Paper Mill - 1909.
Of course we mustn't forget the reason for the town in the first place -- the mill. It was the first wood pulp and paper mill in western Canada, built by the Brooks and Scanlon firm of Minnesota. Construction started in 1909 and the first roll of paper was produced in 1912. But everyone was confident of the mill's success and so the townsite building began before that.

In 1955 MacMillan Bloedel merged with the Powell River company. In the 1960s Powell River's mill was the largest single producer of newsprint in the world. It's still in operation today.


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