A woman crosses 176 Street. Duckworth’s and the Cloverdale Hotel can be seen on the right. (Courtesy of the Surrey Archives / 180.1.85)

Cloverdale: The Historic Heart of Surrey

A short history of Cloverdale and Clayton Heights

Cloverdale was first known to settlers as the Clover Valley.

It was named in a letter by William Shannon in the 1870s, in which he wrote that he loved the scent of the summer clover that bloomed in the valley.

Established in 1879 near Five Corners, Cloverdale was the City of Surrey’s first town centre.

The farming community grew alongside the clover in the valley between the Serpentine and Nicomekl rivers. When the New Westminster Southern Railway arrived in 1891, the Clover Valley became known as “Cloverdale,” and the way of life changed for residents.

The town of Cloverdale began to develop along the north-south tracks of the railway. Close by, the track intersected with the B.C. Electric Railway line and the Great Northern Railway.

Cloverdale quickly became an important railway hub, and a thriving commercial centre. Along with developing trades, such as sawmills, Cloverdale was the heart of the municipality’s education and administration services. Surrey’s municipal hall was built in Cloverdale in 1912 — you can see it today along Highway 10, where it currently houses the Surrey Archives.

SEE ALSO: Remember Cloverdale’s first rodeo

SEE ALSO: The Rodeo Queens of Cloverdale

Cloverdale became home to Surrey’s first doctor, first police chief, first jail, the hotel, an opera house and a number of churches and schools.

If you’ve ever wondered why west Cloverdale is known as “Surrey Centre” when today’s “City Centre” is in Whalley, it’s because it was the original heart of the municipality.

The Cloverdale town centre also relied on the Clover Valley Road, constructed a few years after the New Westminster Southern Railway cut through the countryside.

In 1913, Clover Valley Road was graveled and renamed Pacific Highway. Ten years later it re-opened as Surrey’s first paved highway.

Eventually, Cloverdale would see a decline from its central position. When the Pattullo Bridge and the King George Highway opened in the late 1930s and early 1940s, commuters and traders switched to the shorter route, cutting off Cloverdale.

SEE ALSO: Surrey’s Alan Clegg sits down for a socially-distanced chat about his life in Cloverdale over the years

In the 1960s and 70s, Surrey’s municipal headquarters and the RCMP attachment would move. The Surrey Co-op moved to Abbotsford, and the development of commercial centres to the east near the Langley border brought further blows to Cloverdale’s trade centre.

Although Cloverdale is no longer the city’s centre, it has seen a revival as a major residential centre in recent years.

Today, it’s known as the heritage heart of Surrey, housing many historic sites, the Museum of Surrey, Surrey Archives, the BC Vintage Truck Museum, the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway, and much more.

It’s small town charm is featured in films and television shows, and it’s the famous home of the Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair, a fair that’s been around nearly as long as Clover Valley has had that name.


In 1889, Clayton was given its name by the first postmaster, John George, who named it after his hometown of Clayton, Ohio. Before that, the area was either referred to as the Serpentine Flats or the Clover Valley.

By 1891, Clayton was home to a train station, a corner store, post office, two schools and two churches. It was a centre for logging and in 1919 had its own lumber mill. As logs were depleted, agriculture became the predominant industry. The Calkins General Store, built in 1925, was one of the earliest stores to set up shop in Surrey. It can still be seen today, on the corner of Fraser Highway and 184 Street.

SEE ALSO: General stores of years gone by provided invaluable services to Surrey residents

SEE ALSO: How Fry’s Corner survived floods, Prohibition, and a baby monkey

Clayton was noted as a new neighbourhood, along with Port Kells, on an 1892 map. Today, Clayton is a distinctive and fast-growing residential centre within Cloverdale.


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