About Mme Loukes
In 1912 the first paper rolled off the Powell River Paper Mill and Mme Loukes, Elma, sailed in on a friend’s yacht and docked mill-side. These were early days for Townsite which had only become a company town in 1910. The pre-planned ‘Garden City’ would not be completed until 1930.
Elma decided then and there that she was going to move here and set up shop. Born in New Orleans, she was a highly skilled seamstress, dressmaker and designer who saw great potential in the newly formed town. Her first business location was at the Rodmay Hotel, her second location was the top floor of the Patricia Theatre.
According to Beatrice Kent, (nee Innes), Mme Loukes was initially married to a man with the surname Peacock who she divorced and then married Mr. Loukes. She and Mr. Loukes had two sons, Barry and Patrick. One of her sons was later a school teacher in Victoria and the other, a prominent architect in Portland, Oregon.
During her years in Townsite she established herself as the dressmaker, designer for spectacular gowns strutted out by the town ladies at the yearly PaperMakers Ball. Elma’s gowns were one-of-a-kind and you considered yourself very special if you got to wear one! The customers she catered to were the wives of top-level mill employees, as well as, people with professional careers.
In a news article about the PaperMakers Balls, it reads “Dresses were purchased at Madame Loukes’ exclusive 5th Avenue Dress Shop on Marine Avenue in Westview Village. Loukes sold top-of-the-line dresses purchased on buying trips to Vancouver and New York. Her taste was impeccable.”
“Madame Loukes had an elite store with high-fashion goods in Westview; she had no competition in the area,” said Ruby Roscovich, who turned 100 in 2016. “She catered for an exclusive clientele of mill management and professional people. Local people wanted to dress in elegant clothes for events such as the Old Time Dance Club and the Papermaker’s Ball, which were held in Dwight Hall.”
In 1930, during the depression times, when Marine Ave was a dirt road, she built this house and her 5th Ave Dress Shop next door, modeled after 5th Ave in New York City.
Mme Loukes’ architect son visited a few years ago. He told us that when his mother built her house it was outstanding in its modernity of design and had the largest window on Marine Ave. We have not made many changes. The original lathe and plaster walls, cove ceilings, gymnasium quality maple floors and original baseboards are in still in prime condition. The fireplace is intact from the 1930’s, as well as the blue bathtub and sink. The original wrought iron fence and gate are still in prime condition.
Mme Loukes was known in the region for operating a high class business; however, we’ve also heard that she had a gambling den operating in the back room!! It would appear as though Mme Loukes was a true entrepreneur ahead of her time.