Qualicum Beach Power House
Qualicum Beach Museum
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Powerhouse Museum building is a utilitarian, steel-frame and brick-infill structure, part of a group of heritage buildings and outdoor exhibits on the museum grounds, just outside the town centre. The historic place is confined to the building footprint.
Built in 1930, the Powerhouse Museum building is valued for its unusual architecture. While the steel frame suggests the decorative half-timbering of the Tudor Revival style, the Powerhouse’s steel framing is an actual structural component. The vaguely medieval look of the building is in keeping with Qualicum Beach’s preference for this style of architecture during this period. The building’s simple clean lines and severe steel framing speak to an attempt to adapt a predominantly residential and institutional style to an industrial building.
The Powerhouse Museum building speaks directly to Qualicum Beach’s limited industrial history. Although a few sawmills existed in the area in the early 20th century, for most of its history Qualicum Beach has been a residential and resort community. The powerhouse was constructed as a private power generating facility in 1929-30. Prior to this, there had been a few isolated private plants. The area served by the powerhouse was hooked into the main network in 1935, after which the generators were only used for backup in the event of a power failure. In 1946, the generators were removed and power was provided by what would eventually become British Columbia Hydro. The transition marked the end of the era of small-scale power operators and the beginning of the consolidation of the generation and distribution of electricity throughout the province. The history of the Qualicum Powerhouse mirrors the economic and industrial history of the province and, as such, has significant educational value.
The Powerhouse Museum building is also important for its association with English-born and trained architect Karl Branwhite Spurgin, who left a considerable architectural legacy on Vancouver Island. His work included the Prince of Wales Fairbridge Farm School near Duncan, Fairfield United Church in Victoria, Margaret Jenkins School in Victoria, the Qualicum Beach Hotel, the Saanich War Memorial Health Centre and numerous residences, particularly in the Victoria and Saanich areas. In Saanich, Spurgin, a war veteran, was the superintendent in charge of designing and building houses for the Soldier’s Settlement Act Housing Scheme.
The Powerhouse Museum building is an excellent example of the adaptive reuse of a historic building. In the early 1980s, the municipality purchased the building and leased it to the local historical society who, in turn, restored it for use as a museum. Officially opened in 1988, the restored building is part of the museum complex which features other restored buildings and outdoor exhibits.
Source: Town of Qualicum Beach, Corporate Administration
The character-defining elements of the Powerhouse Museum include:
- all of the elements that define a Tudor Revival-inspired utilitarian building, including the simple form and massing, simple gable roof, steel frame and brick exterior, and functional barn-style doors on the north and south elevations
- the building’s location among other heritage buildings and outdoor exhibits on the museum grounds
Local Governments (BC)
Local Government Act, s.967
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Technology and Engineering
Function - Category and Type
- Power Generation Facility
Architect / Designer
Karl Branwhite Spurgin
Location of Supporting Documentation
Town of Qualicum Beach, Corporate Administration
Cross-Reference to Collection