Powell River Townsite Historic District National Historic Site of Canada

Powell River, British Columbia
View of the Powell River Historic District, showing the compact placement of housing on the plan, and their spatial relationship to each other, 1956. (© PRA, neg. 14110, May 1956)
Aerial view
(© PRA, neg. 14110, May 1956)
Address : Powell River, British Columbia

Recognition Statute: Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
Designation Date: 1995-07-06
  • 1911 to 1955 (Construction)
  • 1911 to 1916 (Significant)
  • 1920 to 1930 (Significant)

Event, Person, Organization:
  • John McIntyre  (Architect)
  • Powell River Company  (Builder)
  • George F. Hardy  (Builder)
Other Name(s):
  • Powell River Townsite Historic District  (Designation Name)
  • Powell River “Old Town”  (Other Name)
Research Report Number: 1995-17, 2004-082


Existing plaque:  Powell River, British Columbia

Powell River is an exceptional example of a professionally planned, single-industry town dating from the early modern period in Canadian town planning. The oldest sector, begun in 1910-1911, focuses on the mill, the first newsprint manufacturer in western Canada and, for a number of years, the world's largest individual producer. Immediately to the east stands the original residential core which marches up the hill in a compact gridiron pattern commonly used in early planned towns. Neighbourhoods, which placed workers in the same occupation together, consist of groups of houses having a small number of standardized designs. As the mill expanded, the original town plan was extended in the 1920s and additional housing of sympathetic design was constructed to the south along gentle crescents laid out on the heavily forested hillside. Further residential development took place in suburbs located beyond the original townplot. As a result, Powell River's townsite largely retains its early 20th century appearance. A pioneer in Canadian town planning, the community also illustrates the emergence of an industry of international importance.

Description of Historic Place

Powell River Townsite Historic District National Historic Site of Canada is a planned, single-industry town from the first half of the 20th century. Located at Powell River, British Columbia, the residential neighbourhood of standard-plan, wood-frame houses climbs a short distance up the hill behind the enormous pulp and paper mill and then stretches to the south in a gentle crescent along a heavily forested area. The extent of the site is defined by the Malaspina Strait, the Powell River and heavily wooded mountains. The designation refers to the planned housing sector and does not extend to the mill.

Heritage Value

Powell River Townsite Historic District was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1995 because: it is a very well-preserved and progressive example of the earliest phase of planned 20th-century single industry communities in Canada, exhibiting evidence of all the characteristics of this planning phase: a strong focus on the mill, a gridiron pattern of streets, standardized house plan segregated by class, and little significant allowance for measured growth; the townsite’s original plan of 1910-1911 is intact; its boundaries, which reached their current limit in 1930, are extraordinarily clear and legible; more than 97 percent of the existing townsite building stock predates 1940 and about 400 original homes still stand together representing a stylistically harmonious group.

The heritage value of the site resides in its physical manifestation of an early 20th-century planned, single-resource community. Developed by the Powell River Company in 1911, the early plan was implemented by George F. Hardy, a New York engineer, and later enlarged by architect John McIntyre.

Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, July 1995.

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include: the grid-iron plan oriented to the mill; compact placement of housing on the plan, their spatial relationships to each other and to green space; grouping of standard plan houses by “class”; the presence of sports facilities, including soccer and baseball fields, tennis courts, a gymnasium, and a golf course and greenbelt; presence of community facilities including a hotel (the Rodmay), an apartment block, a boarding house, a hospital, churches, a community centre (Dwight Hall), a bank, a movie theatre (the Patricia), and a company store; consistent use of wood building and cladding materials; use of restrained Arts and Crafts (West Coast Craftsman) architectural idiom for pre-1916 buildings, with characteristics elements such as pitched roofs with deep eaves and heavy brackets, shed dormers, porches, clapboard and/or shingle siding; use of restrained Tudor-Revival style in interwar-era buildings (post 1920), with characteristic elements such as varied rooflines, gabled dormers, mock half-timbering, multi-pane windows, porches; use of a Modernist architectural idiom in post-1950 buildings, with characteristic elements such as simple, rectangular massing under a flat roof, strip windows, and glass curtainwalls.