The 1881 Town Hall, ready for transport to its new home at the Museum of Surrey. The town hall was housed in the BC Vintage Truck Museum, once the Surrey Museum, and surrounding additions were demolished in order that the hall could be extracted. (Brian Leong)

The 1881 Town Hall, ready for transport to its new home at the Museum of Surrey. The town hall was housed in the BC Vintage Truck Museum, once the Surrey Museum, and surrounding additions were demolished in order that the hall could be extracted. (Brian Leong)

HISTORY: 137-year-old ‘civic treasure’ was Surrey’s original town hall, a poultry barn and museum

1881 Town Hall slated to be moved to Museum of Surrey’s heritage campus

By Sue Bryant,

Cloverdale Reporter

The corner of 60th Avenue and Highway 15 has been a flurry of activity lately.

The 1881 Town Hall has been removed from the building that has surrounded it for 50 years, in anticipation of the move to the new Museum of Surrey campus.

Surrey is fortunate to lay claim to one of the earliest municipal seats of government in the province, and this is no small testament to the pride in the heritage of our city.

In a council meeting in January 1881, it was decided that a town hall should be built so that residents could attend general meetings.

Councillor Abraham Huck donated one acre of his land at Surrey Centre for this purpose, along with land for a future church and school. This solidified the area as the town centre for the settlements around Surrey, and the site on the hill overlooking Mud Bay made for a pleasant location. The first council meeting was held on May 2, 1881, a mere four months after plans were approved.

Interior of the 1881 Town Hall, as seen in the BC Vintage Truck Museum. 
Interior of the 1881 Town Hall, as seen in the BC Vintage Truck Museum.

Sam Anderson

It was the year that the Canadian Pacific Railway was formed, and in the United States, the year of Billy the Kid’s escapades and the gunfight at the OK Corral. Closer to home, Gassy Jack’s saloon was opened, but the Township of Granville had not yet become the City of Vancouver. The Great Vancouver Fire wouldn’t occur until 1886.

There were no railroads and no bridges across the Fraser River. Very few roads existed and those that did were wagon trails, uneven and treacherous.

For the next generation, the town hall housed the beginnings of what we know today as the City of Surrey.

As well as serving for town business, it was a meeting hall that hosted many of the early community groups. The Farmer’s Institute had its inaugural meeting in 1897 in the hall. The Surrey Agriculture Association held the first Fall Fair in 1888, using the 1881 Town Hall as its main building.

The Surrey Women’s Institute also had their start in this building. Chaired by May Bose, the Institute was responsible for a significant decline in infant mortality in the surrounding area, and increased the general health of the community through educational efforts and medical assistance.

In 1912, the municipal government moved to the newly built hall located on Old McLellan Road, or as we know it today, Highway 10. The original town hall fell into disuse for a few years, acting as a poultry barn. For many places, this would have signaled the end of this founding piece of history.

A grassroots campaign to preserve the hall gathered steam in 1938. Given the lean years of the Depression, it was met with cool consideration by the council until the Cloverdale Junior Chamber of Commerce agreed to pick up the cost of restoration and to move it to a more appropriate location.

In June 1938, the 1881 Town Hall was raised onto a truck and moved to the location then known as Cloverdale Park, where it has been ever since. Young schoolchildren watched from the window as the move took place.

Once lowered onto the new location, it was restored by the local community. Newspapers at the time asked for any free handymen with some extra paint, shingles or just time to come down and lend a hand for the “Town Hall Bee.”

Soon after, homage was paid to the early settlers of Surrey and the original reeves invited to a celebration in the town hall’s new location. The original council’s table and chairs, along with the coal oil lamp were displayed for all to admire. This planted the seed for the town hall to become the first museum in Surrey.

In 1940, former reeve Henry Bose spent some time reminiscing on those early sessions in the hall. He spoke of the late John Oliver, who sat as the town clerk and would later become premier. He also recalled when the beaver was chosen as the symbol for the official municipal seal.

The 1881 Town Hall, pictured in 1912.
The 1881 Town Hall, pictured in 1912.

Courtesy of the City of Surrey Archives / 91.2.01

The original town hall would continue to be the museum for the next several years. In 1958, the future looked a little bleak. The museum was run by volunteers and only able to open a few days a year.

An opportunity arose to donate it to the Fort Langley National Historic Site for their use. Thankfully, this idea was not met with strong support and the municipality had the foresight to apply for a Centennial grant from the federal government. This would allow the addition of 1000 sq.ft. of space to be built and further restorative work. One of the early relics showcased in the museum included the helm from the “K de K” ferry which was the only link for many years from Surrey to New Westminster. Later on, additional space would be added to allow for the space to be used as the local court house.

After the Surrey Museum opened in 2005, the 1881 Town Hall would become part of the BC Truck Museum. The A-Frame roof peeking out of the rest of the hall was a familiar sight to all in the area.

As the 137-year old building prepares to make its final move to the Museum of Surrey campus, those young children who watched it move in 1938 are now octogenarians. The 1881 Town Hall, with its simple yet effective design, has served the community for longer than anyone could have expected.

It is a true civic treasure and this remarkable building will now have the chance to be appreciated by all.

Sue Bryant is an local historian and a member of the Surrey Historical Society. She is also a digital photo restoration artist, genealogist and a volunteer at the Surrey Museum and Surrey Archives.



editor@cloverdalereporter.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

history

Just Posted

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum speaks at a press conference in August 2019 about provincial government approval of the city’s change to a municipal force, joined by councillors (from left) Mandeep Nagra, Allison Patton and Doug Elford. Members of the National Police Federation claim there is still no transition plan in place although Surrey RCMP’s contract with the city is due to end March 31.(File photo)
Elections BC approves application for referendum on Surrey policing transition

Application was filed under Recall and Initiative Act by the widow of a Surrey murder victim

South Surrey’s Meridian Golf Course – a 15-acre property that also includes a residence – has been sold. (Colliers Canada photo)
South Surrey’s Meridian Golf Course sold to new owners

Deal for popular par 3 course expected to close by end of the year

The Penner family is fighting once again this year to have their son’s educational assistant hours increased, after the district determined it should be cut to 20 hours a week, from 22.5. Pictured are Shawn and Kathryn Penner (front), with their nine-year-old twins Micah and Lena, both of whom have heart conditions and are on the autism spectrum. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
This year is not a ‘benchmark’ as Surrey parents say support-worker hours cut once again

But the district says it’s forecasting a seven per cent increase

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum. (Screenshot from Sebastian Sajda YouTube video)
VIDEO: Surrey mayor unceremoniously cuts off 22 speakers during public hearing

Speakers plead with Doug McCallum not to be disconnected but mayor reminds them to stay on topic

TEASER PHOTO ONLY
PHOTOS: Cloverdale hockey’s 2021 grads finally played a game after disappointing season

‘Hopefully this was the last time our Colts will have to be getting dressed and undressed in the parking lot’

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Queen’s counsel Paul Doroshenko, a Vancouver lawyer, has been suspended from practice for two months after admitting that his firm mismanaged $44,353.19 in client trust funds. (Acumen Law)
High-profile B.C. lawyer suspended over $44K in mismanaged client trust funds

Queen’s counsel Paul Doroshenko admits to failing to supervise his staff and find, report the shortage

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., center left, reaches over to Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., joined by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., center, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus as they celebrate the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act that creates a new federal holiday to commemorate June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people after the Civil War, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 17, 2021. It’s the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden to sign bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

New American stat marks the nation’s end of slavery

Ridge Meadows RCMP seized drugs, cash and guns from a house on Lougheed Highway and 221 Street. (Special to The News)
RCMP seize drugs, cash and guns from Maple Ridge house

Items were recovered after search warrant executed on Lougheed Highway home June 11

Fire near Highway 97 C close to Merritt. (Facebook)
Wildfire burning near Highway 97C

The fire is an estimated nine hectares in size

Athena and Venus, ready to ride. (Zoe Ducklow - Sooke News Mirror)
Goggling double-dog motorcycle sidecar brings smiles to B.C. commuters

Athena and Venus are all teeth and smiles from their Harley-Davidson sidecar

Kimberly Bussiere and other laid-off employees of Casino Nanaimo have launched a class-action lawsuit against the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
B.C. casino workers laid off during pandemic launch class-action lawsuit

Notice of civil claim filed in Supreme Court of B.C. in Nanaimo against Great Canadian Gaming

A Photo from Sept. 2020, when First Nations and wild salmon advocates took to the streets in Campbell River to protest against open-pen fish farms in B.C.’s waters. On Dec. 17, federal fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan announced her decision to phase out 19 fish farms from Discovery Islands. Cermaq’s application to extend leases and transfer smolts was denied. (Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror)
Feds deny B.C.’s Discovery Island fish farm application to restock

Transfer of 1.5 million juvenile salmon, licence extension denied as farms phased out

Most Read