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Canadian Historic Sites: Occasional Papers in Archaeology and History No. 14

The B.C. Mills Prefabricated System: The Emergence of Ready-made Buildings in Western Canada

by G. E. Mills and D. W. Holdsworth


Between 1904 and 1910 the Vancouver-based British Columbia Mills Timber and Trading Company marketed a patented system of prefabricated sectional buildings in western Canada. Initially this system was devised as a means of supplying small inexpensive huts to incoming settlers in newly opened agricultural regions. Such structures were prefabricated, prepainted, packaged and shipped by rail to local distributors in towns and villages throughout western Canada. With a set of accompanying instructions, the purchaser could erect his dwelling in a minimum amount of time with little assistance or equipment.

This sectional system was subsequently adapted to a variety of larger permanent homes and ultimately to institutional and commercial structures such as schools, churches and banks. It was with a series of classical banks manufactured for the Canadian Bank of Commerce that the system achieved its greatest success as an enduring western Canadian landmark.

Submitted for publication 1974 by G. E. Mills, Canadian Inventory of Historic Building, National Historic Parks and Sites Branch, Ottawa and D. W. Holdsworth, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia.

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