This Week in History
Powell River: Company Town
For the week of Monday April 8, 2002
On April 12, 1912, the first paper rolled off the line at the Powell River paper mill. To accommodate the mill workers and their families the Powell River Company built homes and community facilities for them. Improving on the unplanned towns typically created in Canada, the Powell River Company created a planned community, demonstrating the beginning of a new phase in the construction of single-industry towns.
In 1910, a portable sawmill was set up to supply lumber to construct a town. The town was designed with a gridiron plan that began at the mill's gate and climbed up the hill. The streets were lined with standardized company-owned houses that reflected the occupants' positions at the mill — the house of a labourer was quite distinct from that of a manager. Over the years the mill continued to expand — as did the town. The Powell River Company not only built more houses, it also created soccer and baseball fields, tennis courts, a gymnasium, and a golf course for its employees. A hotel, hospital and community hall were among the other facilities that the company provided for the social well-being of its employees. By 1930, the townsite reached the borders that it maintains today.
Between 1912 and 1957, the mill increased its capacity from 36 000 tons per year to more than 500 000 tons per year, and for a time, the Powell River mill was the world's largest single producer of newsprint. The company, which merged with MacMillan and Bloedel and is now Pacifica Papers, is still an important world producer of newsprint.
After 1955 Powell River ceased to be a company town. Homes and businesses became privately owned and the town became part of a municipality, but some 400 (or about 97%) of the original townsite houses and commercial buildings still stand. In 1995, the Powell River Townsite Historic District became a national historic site of Canada.
- Date Modified: