Dear Roman Mars
You would love the Powell River Townsite.
Ever since the Concrete Furniture episode I have been a faithful listener of 99 percent invisible. It was in your podcasts that I learn about your Read The Plaque mantra along with Secret Staircases and loved every episode before, after and in between.
See Roman I am a lover of quirky info. My curiosity is only second to my love of photography. So when Wikimedia Commons had their photograph a monument drive in September I though hey let’s look around and find what’s available.
There was nothing on the lower Sunshine Coast which is Sechelt, Gibsons and Pender Harbour, but there was in the upper Sunshine Coast ; the historic townsite of Powell River and it had not been photographed for the project for the commons.
Then Joel showed up…
Then Joel showed up. Who is Joel? He is my best friend and the guy who taught me about photography. He just moved back to Sechelt after 6 years in China.
I called Joel and said, “Want to go to photograph old building in Powell River for Wikipedia?”
In more words then less Joel said sure why not… He had not been there in years and we haven’t gone out shooting together in more then 10 years.
We researched about the Historic Townsite, got up early and hit the road.
We arrived at the Powell River Townsite and parked at the The Old Courthouse Inn had a awesome breakfast at the Edie Rae’s Cafe. We met the owners Kelly Belanger and JP Brosseau who as it turned out were having breakfast right beside us.
They gave us the historical walking tour pamphlet provided by the Townsite Heritage Society of Powell River.
What we found through our walking tour was just short of amazing and I barely knew the history of something in my own backyard.
What I really liked about the Townsite of Powell River was how much of the town was in one way or another connected to an architectural ideas presented on 99 Percent Invisible.
1. The floating ships that comprised the breakwater of the mill were originally world war one and world war two era concrete ships reminded me of the Razzle Dazzle (Episode 65). (although not painted as such) These type of concrete ships were made as such for the easy construction although they were heavy and not economical after the war effort to operate.
2. The towns preplanned layout has a number of housing designs for couples, family’s and the single mill worker and yet not a single Cul de Sac (Episode 29) was included in the design.
3. The Hand Painted Signs (Episode 74) of Patricia Theatre and the hand painted utility box covers. You just don’t see that much quality put into a utility box anymore something that Parks Canada noted on his visit and was pointed out to us on our tour of the theatre.
4. As we were walking down the hill from towards the mill. We came across a Secret Staircase ( Episode 75 ). I immediately stopped and said to Joel. I heard of these before. Roman talked about pathways and staircases between properties. This one of course was a shortcut to the paper mill. But it had all the hallmarks of a secret staircase built (I am sure) with the rest of the town in the 1930’s.
5. The plaques and signs They are everywhere! The Townsite Heritage Society of Powell River has really done a great job on signs plaques and overall history of the townsite. So I implore you to Read the Plaque. Or better yet take a picture of it and submit it to the Read The Plaque website a collaboration between Roman Mars and Alexis Madrigal.
Every building a new story
Every turn we took we encountered an new building and a new story behind it. The old Bank of Montreal building that is now an art studio called Studio 56.
The most fun we had was at Townsite Brewery which was originally build as the post office and customs house for the community. It has a beautiful brick art deco patterns and because of the brick and steel construction was the perfect location to house a craft brewery. Also they make amazingly well crafted beer.
So… You should really check out the Powell River Historic Townsite if you ever have the chance Roman.
Faithful listen and season 3 support of 99% invisible.
Epilogue: The larger picture
Although I knew Wiki Loves Monuments was happening world wide I never really thought about all the other people uploading photos. I just thought this would be something nice to do in my neck of the woods with a photo buddy I haven’t seen in a very long time. But viewing the stats for the month was impressive.
Worldwide Stats for the monument:
- 369589 files by 11943 uploaders
- 53 countries over the course of the month.
- 2556 photos by 226 uploaders
- Ranked 32 in the number of uploads per country.*
*Although quantity doesn’t always equal quality in my mind
It was great to participate in such a worldwide altruistic movement. It was also great to enjoy a day in the sun exploring a part of the Sunshine Coast I knew very little about with a friend I hadn’t seen in years!
My adventures in the historic Powell River Townsite seeded Andy Clark’s photo story on the Patrica Theatre. He also wrote a wonderful post for the Reuters photo blog as well.