Bungalows in a company town: Powell River, British Columbia

Bunglaows of Powell River

Powell River, British Columbia, is a company town built for the pulp and paper industry.  It has a large number of original bungalows built for the workers at the Mill, as well as some wonderful public buildings in the town that are great to visit.

For more detailed information on the development of the townsite, with pictures of some of the public and residential buildings, please see this article at Old House History:


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. The population is around 20,000 people, and the town 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.

Powell River from air

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.

The Bungalows

In the section below, six original bungalow designs are shown. These are the main bungalow designs that made up the worker’s housing of Powell River in the early days of the town. For fun, a main picture is featured of a mostly-original design of each pattern, and then a few examples of the same design, which have been altered over the years. Spot the differences, and consider what small changes – in windows, porch railings or even colour schemes – or larger changes, such as changing a roofline, filling in a porch or adding a modern sunroom – can do to the original design of the house.

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