Townsite Heritage Society

Townsite Heritage Society

Contact Information

6211 Walnut Street, Powell River, BC V8A 4K2

Phone :604 483 3901

Fax: 604 483 3991


Linda Nailer, Coordinator    604 483 3901  

Ann Nelson   604 483 9930 or 483 9345

Rebbeca Vincent     604 483 3006

Diana Collicutt    604 483 4466

Website URL:



Published in MAIN MENU

The Garden City and Arts and Crafts Movements from the late 19th century influenced Powell River's planners of 1910 and as such is represented in the residential styles of the homes that are still present on the landscape today. 

The movement emphasized the skills of craftsmanship which was threatened by mass production and industrialization. Some characteristics of Arts and Craft architecture are: bellcast roof lines, verandahs, porches, dormer windows, the use of natural materials, exposed beams, fireplaces with large chimneys, shingle siding, hand-crafted built in cabinetry, double hung windows etc...

Structures located on corner lots were given special attention to design, the criteria being the presence of two fronts. This feature allowed for two directions from which to orient the view. In this period the practice was described as Looking Two Ways.

The most common house style in Powell River Townsite had a two pitch roof with the ridge beam perpendicular to the street (gable roof). Triangular shaped roof brackets were more decorative than structural, giving the house a generally more robust appearance.

Another roof style used in Townsite dwellings was the square, pyramid shaped roof tapering upwards from the four corners (hip roof). The small scale of this kind of house design was further enhanced by the refrained use of decorative elements such as roof brackets and add-on structures. As well, recessed porches and boxed windows were common features. 

Homes with an almost identical design to the street facing gabled structures took on a new aspect when the roof ridge was framed parallel to the street (side facing gable). This alteration to design provided a simple way to vary the appearance of the homes. 

Company homes in Townsite rarely featured a second storey. Found almost exclusively on Cedar Street, two-storey structures naturally appear taller and boxier than other Townsite homes. Stairs accessed from the back door lead to the 4 rooms upstairs for tenants.

Between 1923-1930 a subset of housing was introduced into the town plan for middle management employees. Sited on larger lots these homes consistently featured Tudor Revival styling and had two storey's and full basements. Roof brackets are absent but add-on porches, street facing gables, Jurgenhead roofs, and tripled windows facing the ocean were all featured.

Click on a photo to the right for a write-up and photos of residential building built in the early part of the 1900’s.



Published in MAIN MENU


Historically, our community was preplanned with principles generated from progressive philosophical movements arising as a result of the excesses of industrialization in the late 19th century.



Published in History

Philosophical  Foundations

The essential components of the Garden City Movement were grounded in basic respect for the humanity of the individual worker and their family. In order to turn around the prevailing attitudes of the time and create a humane environment in industrial towns, four basic principles were established:


The town was to be entirely preplanned.

Homes for employees and their families were to be constructed by the employer ensuring that each home had "ample room, ample air and a place in the yard for a garden".

That the entire town was to be surrounded by a green belt of trees or agricultural parkland.

The town should incorporate to the best advantage a mix of industry, commerce, residential, gardens and green spaces.

The proponents of the movement felt that by preplanning an entire town on principles which enhanced the livability for it's residents. the opportunity for a fuller life would be possible, encouraging intellectual, moral and physical development.


The reason the Powell River Company went to great expense to provide an extraordinary living environment for the community may be explained more concisely by another philosophical movement adopted by the town's planners at that time. This movement was called the Arts and Craft Movement and arose at the same time as the Garden City Movement.


The Arts and Crafts Movement was not a formalized society as was the Garden City Movement, nor did it have a formalized agenda. It was very loosely structured and had a broad influence in a number of diverse areas, based on three basic principles. These principles can be recognized in Powell River's Townsite not only by the quality of construction which was undertaken but that the actual designs of the homes from 1909 to 1925 modeled the precepts of the Arts and Crafts Movement.


Firstly, the Movement postulated that the individual would be a better person if he or she were stimulated in the "hand, head and heart". Further, if a number of individuals were stimulated in this way, a greater good would arise with respect to community and industrial stability and productivity.


Secondly, the Movement extolled the virtue of quality and the therapeutic benefits that flow from creating or being exposed to the highest standards in a wide variety of mediums.


Lastly, the movement re-emphasized a greater appreciation for the natural environment. Objects of art, artefacts, building design and town planning emphasized nature, in contrast to the prevailing trends of Post Victorian sensibilities.


Brooks and Scanlon drew from these philosophical movements in the creation of Powell River. The town was preplanned, complete with public gardens and tree-lined streets, all maintained by the Company. Also a tree buffer zone was designated to surround the Townsite and separate it from the neighbourhoods of Westview, Cranberry and Wildwood.


As for the homes, they were initially constructed in Craftsman style designs which fell directly under the Arts and Crafts Movement umbrella. Powell River was a progressive avant-garde community amid the BC wilderness coastline. Today, the unique underpinnings which fostered this community have been acknowledged. In 1995, the Townsite of Powell River was officially recognized as an intact example of a Garden City community, and federally designated as a National Historic District.


Paper Pioneers

The uniqueness and significance of Powell River today can be greatly attributed to the philosophical perspectives of our early cofounders, Dr. Dwight Brooks, Anson Brooks and M.J. Scanlon.


At the time of the Powell River Company's incorporation in 1909, the prevailing attitude among industrialists could be characterized by an increasing lust for profit and virtually little regard for the working men and women and their families. Degenerating conditions at mines, factories and pulp and paper mills were reflected by increasing squalid and disease-ridden living environments.


Enlightened spokespeople, as early as the late 19th century, decried the workers situation and subsequently formed movements to present alternate ways in which the relationship between employer and employee could be approached.


An influential movement which formed in 1885, to address the problems associated with industrialization at the time called itself The Garden City Movement. The gentlemen of the society conducted research and published their findings for preventative measures against industrial town squalor.



Published in History

The Powell River Company was incorporated in 1909 by Dr. Dwight Brooks, Anson Brooks and M.J. Scanlon. This area's deep harbour, and the energy potential which would be available from a dammed Powell River, convinced these gentlemen from Minnesota to build the largest Pulp and Paper Mill in Western Canada.   

The company was initially beset by problems significant enough to cause the cofounders to reconsider whether to proceed with the massive undertaking. The building of the dam presented a number of challenges, one being the displacement of many people to make way for the dam's watershed.

In spite of all the difficulties, paper rolled off the Number One Paper Machine for the first time in 1912, an accomplishment the entire community of Powell River celebrated. Just a year later, the mill had four paper machines up and running at 650 ft per second (the fastest in the world at the time) and producing 250 tons of paper a day.

By the mid 1960's the Powell River Mill was the highest producer of wood fibre pulp and paper newsprint in the world. The Mill was purchased from the Powell River Paper Company in 1955 by MacMillan Bloedel and was sold in 1998 to Pacifica Papers.

Subscribe to this RSS feed