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Page last updated June 26, 2008
© Michael Kluckner
Written/sketched 2002: Union Bay, the rail port for the coal from Cumberland shipped by the Union Coal Company, survives today as a row of buildings along the waterfront, with the pilings and railbed of the long-vanished coal port stretching out into the bay. The Union Bay Historical Society bought and restored the 1912 post office in 1989, then moved the old jail and a church next to it into a little grouping of buildings. Although appreciating the tableau created by them, my eye was drawn to the service station – the sort of local business and "landmark" once typical of every small town in the province. It looks like a 1940s or 1950s building – does anyone know the specifics?
We came into Union Bay from the south. A few doors away from the service station, I saw two unmistakeable BC Mills, Timber & Trading Company Model "JJ"s on the side of the road. Their proportions and profiles are still recognizable, although both have been drastically remuddled. Further investigation indicated that one was a gallery, the other a residence, and that both were known locally as the "Aladdin houses." This, according to the gallery owner, was because the houses had been prefabricated in a plant in Washington State and barged to Union Bay in 1906. An American visitor to Union Bay had told her the story. Inside the gallery, she displayed a piece of wood from the original house, marked as part of the kit, and presumably removed during a renovation; it says "JJ 23."
The old photograph below is reproduced from the book The Friendly Port: A History of Union Bay 1880-1960 by Janet Glover-Geidt, published by Douglas R. Geidt, 1990. Its caption stated: "two prefabricated Aladdin houses arrived by barge and were screwed together to make charming homes. Mr. and Mrs. C. Bishop lived in one." It clearly shows the unrenovated houses' characteristic wall panels separated by batten--unmistakably BCMT&T houses, not Aladdin houses. (Note the Aladdin Company's catalogue page below)
Reproduced from the 1904 BCMT&T catalogue in the collection of the Heritage Branch, Victoria--the price at that time was $650, FOB the factory in Vancouver
A sample title page from an Aladdin Homes catalogue (collection of Heritage Branch library, Victoria). The company was based in Bay City, Michigan, and had a Canadian office in Toronto. It was one of a number of American companies building prefabricated home kits; its more famous rivals were Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Montgomery-Ward. The two well-known Canadian companies were T.Eaton & Co. of Toronto and the BCMT&T of Vancouver.Note from Lorne Wasylishen, 2008: I am a bit of an Aladdin house buff as well. There are 3 here in Smithers, a Cleveland, a Brunswick and a Wabash which I live in and own plus a grand Eaton's Eagerville. I have been looking all over the continent (via internet) for another Wabash as I would love to visit one to see if it made out as well as mine over the years. This is actually the 1921 Canadian Aladdin catalogue but shows as 1920 on this site. http://clarke.cmich.edu/aladdin/1920/aladdini.htm