One of Surrey’s oldest heritage buildings, Loyal Orange Lodge No. 1471, has been torn down.
Its lifetime spanned three centuries and it survived a move to Surrey Centre Cemetery, where it sat for two decades awaiting restoration.
Last week, with no rescuer on the horizon and its walls bowing with rot, the hall was torn down by the City of Surrey.
Built in 1891, the hall was one of the last surviving institutional buildings from Surrey’s pioneer past, serving an important role in the settlement and further development of the city’s culture as the focus of community life for early protestant settlers.
The tear-down ended nearly two decades of frustrated efforts to find a way to preserve and restore the historic hall, listed on the City of Surrey’s heritage register in 2004.
It was relocated from its original site a few blocks east on 60 Ave. in 1993 in order to save it from demolition when the property was being redeveloped.
According to Don Luymes, Manager of Community Planning for the City of Surrey, the hall was moved to the cemetery as a temporary measure.
The idea was to buy time while a more permanent use could be thought of – ideally finding a purchaser willing to take on the restoration and preservation project, and secure a new lease on life for the building.
That’s happened to several historic counterparts in the Five Corners area, including the Boothroyd House (1875) at 168 St. and 60 Ave., which was saved and restored, finding new life as a commercial building.
For a time, the post-relocation future of the hall looked promising.
The city collected funds from developers in the North Cloverdale Neighbourhood Concept Area to relocate the building to a permanent site, but even that route proved frustrating.
It would have cost tens of thousands of dollars to move the building even a short distance away, such as adjacent to the Surrey Museum – and, because of its height, the power lines along the route would have had to be moved.
Various Surrey Heritage Advisory Commissions explored different options, including reaching out to other surviving Orange Order chapters, but none came to fruition, he said.
“It sat, and it sat, and it sat on the cemetery grounds,” he said.
The death knell came with a 2012 assessment by a heritage building expert who found it would cost around $400,000 to rehabilitate and properly restore the building.
“The city didn’t have that kind of money for it, so it sat,” Luymes said.
Meanwhile, it became a growing eyesore, home to pigeons and gulls, and beset by woodpeckers, who seemed to enjoy drilling holes in the wood siding.
When the heritage commission reconsidered the hall earlier this year, it decided the building couldn’t be saved.
“We would have loved to find the right purchaser who would take the building on, but the building continued to deteriorate,” he added.
The building was so rotten, a collapse was imminent, potentially endangering the lives of the children walking home from school using a shortcut through the heritage site.
The building was dismantled so it can be documented, with some portions being salvaged for future use.
The demolition and salvage crews tried to save what they could.
“They pushed it over gently,” Luymes said. “You couldn’t take it apart. It was in an advanced state of disrepair.”
The sign – Loyal Orange Order No. 1471 – is going to the Surrey Museum, where it can be put on display.
Any boards that are salvageable will be sold. Another idea is to store the good wood, possibly at Mound Farm Park, and create bird boxes and owl nesting boxes – a fitting end, considering barn owls had used the building to nest in.
“It seemed like an appropriate re-use,”
Luymes said the commission has approved a recommendation to use the leftover funds collected for the Loyal Orange Lodge on other heritage projects in Cloverdale. Chief among them is a long-term goal to preserve and potentially relocate the original 1891 municipal hall, located on the Cloverdale Fairgrounds at the corner of 176 St. and 60 Ave.
The Orange Order is a protestant fraternal organization that has its roots in northern Ireland, and played a large role in the history of Canada, where it helped newcomers and settlers, organizing community and benevolent activities.
Some of early Surrey Centre’s most prominent citizens founded Lodge No. 1471, which originated in Langley before forming a Surrey Centre branch: George Boothroyd, Rev. William Bell, Abraham Huck, Henry Thrift and Thomas Shannon, according to HistoricPlaces.ca.
The hall was simply constructed and was used as a gathering place for the fraternal organization at a time when churches, not governments, provided social assistance.