Two old buildings battle for $50,000
Ten heritage sites across Canada are competing for a cash prize, including two from the Fraser Valley. The winner will be decided by the voting public.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the main event.
Located in the eastern Fraser Valley, built roughly 107 years ago, the last surviving train station of its kind in Canada: the Hope Station House!
Situated in the central Fraser Valley, pushing nearly 150 years in age, the last surviving house from the first wave of European settlement in Matsqui Prairie: Abbotsford’s Turner House!
Old buildings can’t box, of course. But the two heritage sites are in a legitimate competition against one another (and eight other Canadian landmarks) and are vying for a $50,000 grand prize.
The Fraser Valley finalists
It’s notable that two of the 10 most promising places deemed worth saving in Canada are located within 80km of one another in the valley.
HOPE STATION HOUSE
- The station is currently located on the corner of highways 1 and 3 but will be relocated to downtown Hope (919 Water Ave.) The building is expected to be moved in 2024, said Ryan Ellan, founder and curator of the Tashme Museum southeast of Hope.
- 116 years—built in 1916
- Designed by architect John Schofield. The building is the last surviving station of its kind in Canada. It was a Class 2 station, meaning it had ticket and telegraph offices, baggage rooms, and lodging for the station agent.
- During the Second World War in 1942, over 8,000 Japanese Canadians crossed the train platform on their way to Internment camps in the interior. (The Current wrote about Tashme; read that here.) As Ellan and others rallied to save the station last year, they emphasized that its preservation can be used to tell that story.
Fun historical fact:
- Before its closure in 1984, the CN train that served it also operated as a milk train, Ellan said. The train would transport milk from Fraser Valley farmers to Great Vancouver. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip visited the station in 1951 and again in 1959.
Most important thing:
- The station’s history is linked to that of both the railways, and the experiences of those who used and built them. Indigenous peoples were displaced by the construction of the railways. Chinese, Mexican, African Canadian, and Indigenous people also helped to build the railways.
Why supporters say it deserves the money:
- “Our vision for the Hope Station will be Hope’s future museum, visitor center, and really a heritage and cultural hub, to showcase the local history of Hope and really the surrounding areas,” said Ellan. “It will be a shared history of all our unique communities.”
- The funds will be used to pay for a heritage architect so the work can begin to rehabilitate the station into a vibrant storytelling hub.
- “We need to know where we’ve come from, to avoid our mistakes in the future. And of course not all of the history of the station is negative,” said Ellan.
ABBOTSFORD’S TURNER HOUSE
- The house was originally located adjacent to the Abbotsford-Mission Highway, just south of Clayburn Road. In recent years it was relocated to Clayburn Park.
- 148 years old— built in 1875
- Built by Royal Engineer George Turner.
- Its namesake, George Turner, was a surveyor with the Columbia attachment of the Royal Engineers. He was one of the area’s earliest European settlers.
Fun historical fact:
- The farmhouse was originally part of the Maple Grove Dairy Company. The property was one of the area’s first cooperatively run farms. It was owned by some of the community’s first European settlers.
Most important thing about it:
- It is the only surviving house from the first phase of European settlement on Matsqui Prairie. A significant amount of documentation allows historians to tell a comprehensive story of its history.
Why it deserves the money more than all the others:
- Turner House is going to be restored to function as a lab. Its contest entry profile says it will be “a place for people to attend lectures and workshops, learn at-risk heritage crafts, and to see preservation work and public archaeology in action.”
- “History is not here for you to approve or disapprove. History is facts, things that we know to be true, and you can build on that, to build a more inclusive community. You can’t silence ugly parts of history away,” said Christina Reid, executive director of the Heritage Abbotsford Society. “This project gives us an opportunity to talk about things like the reserve system, residential schools, all of those kinds of things.”
Sizing up the competition
The competition was organized by a national charity. This is the first time the National Trust for Canada has held the Next Great Save. After reviewing applications from across the country, the trust selected the final 10 heritage sites to be decided by the voting public.
Two other sites from British Columbia also made the top 10: the Duncan Train Station and the Rossland Drill Station.
The Duncan Train Station seems to have the largest support so far in the competition. It has garnered more than 27,000 votes. The Hope Station is just shy of 8,000, while the Turner House is in second-to-last place with only 1,000 votes.
Voting is limited to once daily. The public has until Feb. 22 to help their favourite historic site win $50,000.
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