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Inuvik's Smartie Box houses - four-plex units painted purple, red, green and yellow - will soon be no more. Owner Northern Property Real Estate Investment Trust is in the process of covering the colourful paint with siding. - Jason Unrau/NNSL photo

Should he cover the red ones last?

Jason Unrau
Northern News Services

Inuvik (July 22/05) - A photograph of one of the colourful four-plex units labelled 'Smartie Box housing' graces the Town of Inuvik's visitors guide.

However, what has been part of the town's unique suburban landscape since the 1960s is fast disappearing, as the four-plexes' owner Northern Property Real Estate Investment Trust is in the process of covering the red, yellow, green and purple paint with single-colour siding.

"It has given Inuvik some character," said Mayor Peter Clarkson of the Smartie box houses. "Nobody has come to council and mentioned (the colour change) or that we should have a bylaw regarding the look of dwellings. In 30 years it may change to something different and the nice thing about the new siding is, it won't peel or crack."

Down the Dempster Highway in Dawson City, bylaws do exist to regulate the appearance of homes, specifically requiring that corrugated metal roofing be part of each residence's facade, similar to homes built in the Klondike era.

According to Clarkson, Inuvik has no such bylaws and only requires that new residences meet current building codes. The stories of how these multi-coloured residences came about are as numerous and varied as the number of people one asks.

"I think it was done so people could tell where the government workers lived," offered one lady who wished to remain anonymous. "The five-twelves on the (west) end of town were just drab green."

Another common explanation is that the houses were painted in bright colours so pilots could find the town in periods of low visibility, such as thick fog or snowstorms.

"It's plausible, but I have no knowledge of the way it was, (flying) here years ago," said Aklak Air pilot John MacGregor of the fact bright colours would, in fact, be more visible from the sky in fog or snowstorms.