Cloverdale’s 176 Street in 1963. (Courtesy of the Surrey Archives/SA1992.036.253)

INVESTIGATION: Where is Cloverdale?

It’s a question that has dogged city planners and residents for decades

“What is Cloverdale?”

That is the question asked by Surrey city planners who were writing a plan to help Cloverdale develop into a residential stronghold after its post-war decline in 1964.

The report, which outlined what planners could do to promote Cloverdale’s attractiveness to new homeowners and businesses, first had to make an audacious claim. They had to decide where Cloverdale really was.

“A definition of territory is called for and is made,” the report read, words typewritten and pasted into a large coil-bound book. But, it added, the definition must “be termed arbitrary as happens whenever community limits are not statutorily set down.”

For the purpose of the 1964 report, Cloverdale was decided to be between 164 Street to the west, 186 Street to the east, 64 Avenue to the north and Colebrook Road to the south. But as the report said, that was only an arbitrary determination. And questions of where Cloverdale truly is still persist today.

As reporters of local news, we face that question every day. Who is a Cloverdalian? Where do they live?

Today, we’re going to find out.

Where did Cloverdale start?

The Bose family in their horse-drawn carriage in the early 1900s. (Courtesy of the Surrey Archives/170B44)

Surrey was first established as a municipality in 1879 at the historic Five Corners (the intersection of Old McLellan Road, 60 Avenue and 168 Street). The Cloverdale Town Centre Heritage Study identifies this intersection as the first instance of Cloverdale, although the history of land settlement by European immigrants in the “Clover Valley” began a few years earlier.

William Shannon named the area Clover Valley sometime in the 1870s, after settlers had already begun buying up large tracts of land.

An 1897 pre-emption map of Surrey. (Courtesy of the Surrey Archives/COS.MP 1-0-0-0-0-2)

The Bose family, often considered true pioneers of Cloverdale, had 330 acres of land. They first lived at Fry’s Corner (now the corner of Fraser Highway and Highway 15), but in the 1890s purchased a large tract of land on what is now 64 Avenue. Today, subdivisions and heritage sites with the Bose name are found as far west as 156 Street — some of the westernmost spots in what many consider to be Cloverdale.

As development progressed into the early 20th century, the economic centre of Cloverdale grew along Clover Valley Road, following the three main railways: two legs of the Great Northern Railway, one of which travelled east to Langley and the other which travelled north through Port Kells, and the B.C. Electric Railway, which took passengers from Vancouver to Chilliwack.

In the first half of the 20th century, Cloverdale was an economic powerhouse. The early 1910s saw the development of municipal buildings in the Cloverdale town centre. The American prohibition saw a steady stream of travellers making their way to Cloverdale to line up at the closest liquor store to Bellingham and Seattle. Nearby farms in Langley and Surrey turned to the Cloverdale-based Surrey Co-Op for their agricultural and personal shopping.

Focusing in on Cloverdale

In the post-war years, Cloverdale saw its significance waning. It had been an economic stronghold in a sea of agricultural land, but a surge of residential development in North Surrey began to shift consumer focus away from the town centre. The growth of Whalley provided competition for “convenience shopping” close to home, and Cloverdale’s consumer base became more localized.

By the mid-1960s, the true “Cloverdale” had become its commercial centre, where city planners worried about its future as a vibrant community in Surrey.

A plan showing the five main areas of Surrey in 1965. (Courtesy of the Surrey Archives/COS.MP 2-0-0-0-0-39)

But even then Cloverdale was at best loosely defined. The 1964 community plan report showed Cloverdale extending from Colebrook Road up 164 Street to 64 Ave, and then east to 186 Street. But a 1965 map from Surrey’s planning division extended Cloverdale much further north and south — going down to the 4400-block on Highway 15 and going up to the 7600-block. It also extends much further west, to 156 Street, and further east, even going past the Surrey-Langley border.

As city planners worked to develop revitalize the town centre, their definition of Cloverdale became smaller and smaller. In the 1980s, the Cloverdale town centre was firmly defined as 176 Street and 176A Street, extending from Highway 10 to 58A Avenue. This would continue to be what many people considered the heart of Cloverdale.

But concerns from the Cloverdale Ratepayers Association showed that residents still considered Cloverdale to be far greater than the area the city had its eye on. In February 1960, the association voiced its concerns about traffic hazards at Coast Meridian Road (now 168 Street) and 60 Avenue, as well as Old McLellan Road (56 Avenue) and Pacific Highway.

Moving up to Clayton

Clayton has its own history of settlement and location, one that has developed alongside but separately from Cloverdale as a whole.

Clayton was first settled in the 1880s, and at that time was considered part of the Clover Valley. In 1889, the area on top of the hill was named Clayton after the hometown of the postmaster. For most of its history, Clayton was a farming community with large tracts of agricultural land that extended towards Port Kells, Langley and into the Clover Valley. (The city’s current description of Clayton fits about four homesteads from the 1890s.)

Clayton remained focused on agriculture for much longer than the surrounding Cloverdale area, as it was only in the late 1990s that the city began to create a plan for developing the community. In the 1980s, there was a proposal to turn the farming community into the Metro Vancouver’s industrial area, although that was dropped after heavy opposition from residents.

Now, the city defines Clayton as being bounded by Fraser Highway and 64 Avenue to the south, 74 Avenue to the north, 196 Avenue to the east and a few blocks past 188 Street to the west. Officially, the City of Surrey considers Clayton to be part of Cloverdale.

The present

Today, the definition of Cloverdale is no more clear than it was in 1964.

Provincial and federal ridings include the historic areas of Cloverdale, but also extend to the north and west to cover land that had never been considered part of the town in the past. The Cloverdale Business Improvement Association covers what has been traditionally considered the heart of Cloverdale’s commercial centre, while the Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce goes from 80 Avenue down to the U.S. border.

Even residents continue to have varying opinions on where Cloverdale is, with some saying it goes as far east as 192 Street, others as far west as 162 Street. Some residents continue to include Fry’s Corner as an important boundary for Cloverdale to the north, while 48 Avenue is one boundary to the south. (More consider the railway tracks or Highway 10 to be the best southern boundary for Cloverdale.)

When it comes to Clayton, there continues to be uncertainty. The majority mark Fraser Highway as the boundary between Cloverdale and Clayton, and community-specific troubles divide resident concerns on issues such as parking, supportive housing and municipal infrastructure. But many still see Clayton as a community within Cloverdale, albeit one with its own dynamic.

In short, we may never know where Cloverdale truly is — but that is not a bad thing for the community.

Not knowing where Cloverdale is can be, in a sense, freeing.

It allows Cloverdale to encompass the best of Surrey’s eastern land, and search for solutions to issues that plague residents from Port Kells, Fleetwood, Sullivan and Langley. It allows whoever feels to be a Cloverdalian to become so, and so continue to take the community in new directions.

And, most importantly, it makes for a great deal of fun when you turn to your neighbour and ask: “So, where exactly is Cloverdale?”



editor@cloverdalereporter.com

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