Surrey: A City of Stories tells the story of how one of the country’s fastest growing cities came to be. (City of Surrey)

‘Surrey: A City of Stories’ highlights a history that is sobering, inspiring

New history book tells the story of the people, events that shaped Surrey into what it is today.

The City of Surrey might be where “the future lives,” but, as one of its latest projects demonstrates, it’s where the past lives, too.

The city has just released a new history book celebrating the people and events that shaped Surrey into what it is today. Surrey: A City of Stories is a “Surrey Legacy Project” created in honour of Canada 150.

The book was penned by K. Jane Watt, an award-winning writer and researcher based out of Fort Langley, B.C. She is a well known author of regional histories, and received the Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Historical Writing for her book High Water: Living with the Fraser Floods.

Surrey: A City of Stories makes the city’s history accessible through photos and pull quotes. It is a collage of culture, of memories and snapshots, that comes together in a visually rich coffee-table book. More than 500 visuals are enclosed between the covers, including 332 photos, 40 maps, 73 artifacts and 61 documents.

Readers can discover what the streets of Surrey looked like on Oct. 12, 1962, after Hurricane Frieda ran over the city; travel back to 1913, when you could purchase a lot in “White Rock Heights” for $200; and much more.

But it’s more than just a beautiful book one lays out for guests to admire. Surrey: A City of Stories traces the stories of the people who made their home in what is now Surrey decades, centuries and millennia ago.

Watt takes a frank look at the city’s history, and although much of the book reads as a pleasant reminiscence, the text also highlights the prejudice of the past, the “sobering” moments of our collective past that have been “overlooked or cast aside.”

Watt offers an explanation of the text in the book’s afterword.

Surrey: A City of Stories showcases the breadth of stories that have made today’s Surrey, and its presents glimpses of ordinary people who together have made this a remarkable place,” she writes.

“History is built from conversations and documents, from photographs, artifacts, and memories kept safe over time. It is incomplete, and it is not always smooth or polite,” she adds.

“Although we create history from bits and scraps and imperfect things, in its plenitude of stories we feel the weight of humanity. We honour its fullness”

Watt will be coming to speak at an author’s event at the Cloverdale Library on Saturday, Oct. 14, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., highlighting aspects of the book and telling behind-the-scenes tales of how she stitched the history of Surrey together. There will be a book signing opportunity following the presentation.

To register, call 604-502-6459. For more information, visit

Surrey: A City of Stories costs $25 and can be purchased online or at the Surrey Archives, Historic Stewart Farm, the Surrey Arts Centre or Surrey City Hall. You can also check it out of your local Surrey library.

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