hand drawing of Burkeville subdivision by Wartime Housing Limited

Wartime Housing Limited Scaled Map of Burkeville - August 6, 1943

The site planning along crescents and cul-de-sacs for Burkeville represented a notable departure from the customary grid patterns.

During World War II, significant housing shortages arose as workers arrived to supply the aircraft and munitions plants located at the South Terminal. A decision was made to provide the wartime demand for housing closer to the large employers. The federal government's Wartime Housing Plan set in motion the construction of Burkeville to accommodate employees of Boeing Aircraft of Canada on Sea Island near the South Terminal of Vancouver International Airport. The houses in Burkeville were designed by the architectural firm McCarter and Nairne who designed the Marine Building in Vancouver, British Columbia. The street names have an aeronautical theme. They are named after various wartime aircrafts such as "Anson, Boeing, Douglas, Catalina". Construction began in 1941 and continued through to 1944. The subdivision was named Burkeville after Stanley Burke, the President of Boeing Aircraft in Canada.

Burkeville Houses

There were three models of homes available, and two types of duplexes. A few had cottage roofs and others had gable roofs. One of the houses was different from all the others. It was located at the north end of Lancaster Crescent, and was bigger. At first it was used for the construction company offices, and later converted into a home.

All of the houses had a utility room, which was ground level and was accessed via an outside door (for the storage of wood). It was also accessed from the inside by a small vertical sliding door (about 3'x3’). They all had a large wood/coal heater in the front room and a wood burning kitchen stove in the kitchen. There was a deep laundry-type sink in the kitchen, thick wooden countertops, and cupboards with no doors. Despite being relatively plain structures, the houses did offer 2, 3 or 4 bedrooms, and limited assortments of exterior wall finishes and colour combinations.

Because of lumber rationing during the war, you were only allowed enough lumber to build a 1,000 square foot house and this included both porches. All of them only had a small 30 amp service for 4 to 15 amp glass fuses, and lots of spare fuses because of the new electric irons and toasters. Each house had a small wooden sidewalk that extended to the road, over the ditch. The sidewalks were very slippery when wet, and Grant recalls that at least everyone had a fall on them. The lots were about 40'x100’ in size.

The houses were first rented to Boeing workers for about $20.00 per month. The first completed house was at 300 Lancaster and finally occupied on January 11, 1944 by Mr. and Mrs. Morris Nevile and their 3 children. To get a house in Burkeville, Boeing gave priority to families with children.

Later the houses were sold by Wartime Housing to returning servicemen and their young families. The price was set at $4,500.00 for the small homes. The Lidkea family were one of the lucky ones. They bought into the neighbourhood in 1950. Mrs. Lidkea said the list of potential home purchasers was very long, and you had to have two children in order to be considered.

Burkeville has since been annexed by the city of Richmond and is the only residential area on Sea Island, which otherwise is dominated by Vancouver International Airport.

Burkeville Today

Burkeville remains as the only residential area on Sea Island. Some of its unique small houses remain while others have been replaced by new homes.

Fire Hall No. 4, the Sea Island Elementary School and the Sea Island Community Centre can be found in this small community of 300 plus houses surrounded by the endless expansion of Vancouver International Airport.

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