Chilliwack’s newest heritage home reveals a century of history

The Hazel House is Chilliwack's newest heritage property, and a beloved home for a local couple who wanted to preserve its history

By Grace Kennedy | October 6, 2021 |9:58 am

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At the end of the street, a large blue house beckons you. Tinkling wind chimes hang from eaves of the gabled porch, and tables decked with flowers wait beneath the front windows. A shimmering gold curtain hangs in the open doorway, inviting you to peer inside. Welcome to the Hazel House.

Minke Timmerman emerges from behind the curtain. She is the owner of the Hazel House, along with her husband Gerald. Located next to the Hope Slough in Chilliwack, the house has been in this spot since before the First World War, when it was built as a farmhouse on 12 acres of land. Since then, the land around it has been subdivided and parceled off, but the house has remained. And now, it is the newest addition to Chilliwack’s Heritage Register.

The exterior of a blue and white house.
The Hazel House was originally a farmhouse on 12 acres of land, and would eventually be surrounded by neighbouring single-family residential homes. 📸 Grace Kennedy

“We find it very important that these houses are being preserved,” Timmerman says. She is sitting at one of the tables on her porch, discussing the decision to put the house on the heritage register. Some have suggested it would make the house harder to sell, or more difficult to update—Timmerman heard that just the other day. But, she says, “we don’t see it as a limitation at all. We never even thought about it.”

“We also come from Holland, which probably has something to do with it,” she continues, leaning forward in her chair. “In Europe, everything gets preserved, right? There’s whole historic societies, and they put money into it. And then tourists come and they can view them. So we have grown up with that.”

The background

The Timmerman’s moved to Canada 25 years ago, and have lived in Chilliwack from the start. Five years ago, they wanted to move from their half-acre property in Sardis, and came across the Hazel House in the newspaper listings.

The house was built in 1914 by Robert Milling, as the farmhouse for a 12-acre property. In 1916, the farm was purchased by Alfred and Linda Fulton, who would become locally known for winning prizes at regional fairs through the 1920s. Since then there have been 14 more owners, including Frank Sims who subdivided the farm in 1951 and paved the way for the suburban neighbourhood surrounding the house today.

“When we can’t live here anymore, if that would ever happen, and we have to sell it… then somebody could come in and, if you didn’t have the [heritage] status, knock the whole house down and just put six townhouses here,” Timmerman says. “That’s what they will do. I seriously believe that. And it would just break my heart.

“You have to have somebody that cares for the house, that sees the beauty of it,” she continues. “That’s why we did it. Just to preserve it for other people.”

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Chilliwack’s Voluntary Municipal Heritage Designation Program, which is what the Timmermans applied to, has 15 other properties under its protection. The program ensures that heritage buildings are protected from “unsympathetic alteration and subsequent loss of character value.” Changes to the exterior of the building are regulated, although interior alterations are not. The Timmermans had already undergone significant renovations to the inside of the house, although they were eager to keep a historic feel.

Inside the Hazel House

Walking through the gold curtain, you find yourself in the front entry room of the Hazel House, with red and gold wallpaper above dark stained wood. To your left, a small office with a fireplace and memorabilia from Gerald Timmerman’s mariner past. In front of you: the large open kitchen, still under renovation. To your right: the pink-painted sitting room. Walk through the sitting room and you’ll find yourself in the dining room and then, turning again, at the doorway of the addition built in the 1960s or ’70s.

Minke Timmerman walking, backlight, up a flight of stairs.
Although the interior of a heritage home isn’t managed through Chilliwack’s Voluntary Municipal Heritage Designation Program, the Timmerman’s have opted to keep a historic feel. • 📸 Grace Kennedy

“When we came here, it was just a room with nothing,” Timmerman says. It’s not nothing anymore. In pre-COVID times, the Hazel House was open for visitors to sit and have coffee. Tables are set up at the front of the room; glass doors opened out onto a large porch overlooking the Hope Slough where others could sit. A fireplace and piano create a cozy nook with couches and chairs; a bar is installed with antique mirrors purchased from the States. The small walkway to the bathroom, though, Timmerman wants to make sure we document.

“These are newspapers that we found in the house,” she says, pointing to the wall plastered with yellowing pages. “The oldest one is really brown—and you can see it’s from 1913. The house was apparently built in ’14, and that was the first year they paid taxes, but I believe it was built in ’13.” Other newspapers from the ’30s and ’40s contain old stories, old comic strips, and old memories. They were found in the walls of the upstairs bathroom, which the Timmerman’s renovated after they first bought the property.

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The future

Now head back through the dining room and wend your way upstairs, stepping over the cat lounging halfway up. The stairs end in a small foyer leading to three bedrooms and a bathroom (the home of the aforementioned newspapers). The Timmermans have done little work up here. But they hope what they have done will be enough. Next year, the Timmermans plan on turning their home into a bed and breakfast, and being able to share it with visitors to the area.

“We’ve always lived here” in Chilliwack, Timmerman says. “People have helped us make it a great time. So [Gerald] actually said ‘It’s nice to give something back to Chilliwack.’ I didn’t think about it like that yet, but he did.

“You want to share the beauty of the house with other people, because we love it so much.”

Flowers and deciduous trees obscure the back of a blue house. Blue sky with wisps of white cloud are overhead.
The Hazel House property is located next to the Hope Slough, in its original spot on what used to be 12 acres of farmland. 📸 Grace Kennedy

Grace Kennedy

Reporter at Fraser Valley Current

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