Money pledged to save Hope Station House

The District of Hope has pledged $450,000 to help move the Station House to a new location, meaning nearly three-quarters of the cost is now covered.

By Grace Kennedy | March 16, 2022 |8:31 pm

“We’re actually going to move forward on the Station House.”

Hope Mayor Peter Robb said it with a tone of light surprise during Monday’s council meeting, after a half hour discussion on the future of the building. The discussion saw the District of Hope commit $450,000 to save the building, with the possibility for more funding to come later if needed.

Given the history of the Station House, you can’t really blame Robb for his sound of surprise.

The Hope Station House has been the centre of controversy since December 2020, when the Ministry of Transportation told Hope it needed to remove the building from its current lot on the corner of Highway 1 and 3. The District had been all but set to demolish the building. The public rose up in protest.

For months, locals rallied to try and save the Station House from destruction. They held marches. They signed online petitions. They believed in the value of the 106-year-old train station, and in June BC’s Heritage Branch confirmed it in a rare declaration of support.

BC’s statement didn’t quite make council reverse course. But it did start discussions among council members about whether the building really should be demolished at all.

That’s when Ryan Ellan stepped in.

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Ellan is the founder of the Tashme Historical Society, which operates the Tashme Museum in the Sunshine Valley to remember the lives of the Japanese-Canadians interned at that location during the Second World War. The Hope Station House had a long connection to the internment camp and Ellan, like many, was loath to see it destroyed.

With help from the Coalition for the Preservation of the Hope Station House, Ellan proposed to move the Station House and turn it into a tourist attraction for the community. The District endorsed the plan, and in December agreed to a 10-year lease for a property on Water Street—the main road through the community. But the future of the Station House wasn’t fully secured.

The society was promised two grants totaling $448,800 to help fund the move from Old Princeton Way to Water Street. The money pledged was less than Ellan had hoped, with the move expected to cost about $1.3 million.

During Monday night’s meeting, Hope council had originally considered setting aside only $300,000 for the Station House project. Ellan had wanted the Hope to be an equal partner—matching the $448,800 the historical society had already raised.

“We wouldn’t be able to move forward with the project” without funding from Hope, Ellan had told council in February. With a matching contribution from the District, however, the society would be available for “matching grants,” where other organizations provide funding based on Hope’s contribution.

“It would show the community, heritage societies and other partners that the District of Hope has that faith in us,” he said. “And I feel we would have no problem matching that $500,000 from other sources.”

Some council members were on board with the idea—especially if the money didn’t come directly from Hope taxpayers.

“I think it’s time that we get this project done,” Coun. Heather Stewin said. “Nickel and dime-ing it is ridiculous.”

Ultimately, council agreed to contribute $450,000 to the Tashme Historical Society’s project in a 3-2 vote, with Victor Smith and Craig Traun opposed. (The funding will come from settlement money given to the District by the Ministry of Transportation several years ago, after the province failed to adequately consult with local First Nations in a land transfer related to the Station House property.) If additional money is needed, the district suggested it could consider using other funds, like the COVID recovery grants, to help move the Station House to its new home.

It’s still unclear when exactly the Station House will move and what will occupy it when it does so.

The District’s 10-year lease came with the expectation that it would house a museum, Advantage Hope (the District’s economic development and tourism organization), and potentially other businesses. On Monday, Ellan suggested the Station House could become the district’s museum, with a climate-controlled basement used to store the district’s artifacts. Advantage Hope could move out of its trailer and into a new building on the site. Some councillors expressed concerns about the plans, and offered other ideas instead. Ellan was open to them.

“We’re totally flexible. We just want to save the building.”

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Grace Kennedy

Reporter at Fraser Valley Current

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