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Dwight Hall floor reveals Townsite history

New hardwood floor installation uncovers original material
SURFACE UPGRADE: Floor installer Rob Hook makes the last passes with a sander over the new hardwood at Dwight Hall. Hook found a piece of the original floor while tearing up the first replacement floor, which was installed in the 1950s. David Brindle photo

A Townsite artifact, or just a piece of scrap wood for the burn pile, depending on the point of view, was found recently under floorboards at Dwight Hall. BC Hardwood floor installer Bob Hook made the discovery while replacing the grand old ballroom’s 5,000-square-foot dance floor.

“When we were ripping out the floor, I just happened by chance to pull the board out,” said Hook, “It flipped over and had our company stamp on it.”

BC Hardwood installed the first floor for Dwight Hall’s opening in 1927. Back then, grand concerts and opulent dinners were commonplace, according to Townsite historian Karen Southern.

Hook said Dwight Hall is a particularly prestigious contract and hardwood installers always leave a personal stamp of their work. To come across a piece of flooring from when it was about to open is a rare find, he added.

“It’s happened once before at the Empress Hotel in Victoria,” said Hook about the famous hotel’s ballroom that was built in the early 1900s. “We redid that one eight or nine years ago. One piece had a BC Hardwood stamp on it as well.”

The new Dwight Hall floor is identical to the first one BC Hardwood installed 90 years ago. In the mid-20th century, the original floor was replaced by another company, said Hook.

“The only reason we know that is from the types of nails they used,” said Hook. “It was a screw-type nail used just after the war, up until the ’70s. It was all hand-nailed back then.”

A grant of $105,895 awarded for the project in October 2016 was one of the largest to come from Powell River Community Forest. According to City of Powell River manager of operational services Sean Cator, it was worth every penny.

“It’s a fantastic job and a vast improvement to the previous floor and facility,” said Cator. “It’s one of those routine maintenance things that has to be done.”

Returning Dwight Hall to its past glory turned out better than expected, he added.

Work was finished within the timeframe allowed, which was tight due to high demand from the community for use of the facility, especially from April through May.

First-grade eastern maple with a high gloss was used to replace hardwood, well-worn from decades of dances, concerts, dinners, weddings and balls.

Saturday night dances and fancy dress balls, put on by the men’s lodges of Powell River, took place regularly in decades past. The best and biggest, according to Southern, was the Papermaker’s Ball.

“The floor was weathered and showing its age,” said Hook. “There were some lumps and bumps in the subfloor. We took care of that and brought it back into pristine form.”

Hook said the floor will last as long as Dwight Hall stands, but if another floor is needed in the future, that crew might discover a piece from today.

“I always sign the floors,” said Hook. “My crews sign the floors with the date, where they are from and their skill level.”