Home / Accueil

Powerhouse Museum

587 Beach Road, Qualicum Beach, British Columbia, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1984/12/03

Powerhouse Museum; Town of Qualicum Beach, 2009
General view, 2009
Powerhouse Museum; Town of Qualicum Beach, 2009
Wall detail, 2009
No Image

Other Name(s)

Qualicum Beach Power House
Powerhouse Museum
Qualicum Beach Museum

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2010/03/10

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.

Heritage Value

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

Character-Defining Elements

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



British Columbia

Recognition Authority

Local Governments (BC)

Recognition Statute

Local Government Act, s.967

Recognition Type

Heritage Designation

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Technology and Engineering

Function - Category and Type




Power Generation Facility

Architect / Designer

Karl Branwhite Spurgin



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Town of Qualicum Beach, Corporate Administration

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




Related Places



Advanced SearchAdvanced Search
Nearby Places