One of Surrey’s oldest community halls is due for renovation work that involves moving the structure away from the street corner.
Strawberry Hill Hall, on the corner of 75th Avenue and 121st Street in Newton, was built in 1909.
“It is an excellent example of early 20th century agriculture architecture and serves as a testament to the success of the agriculture community in Surrey,” the city says in a public notice for an open house there Thursday (June 20, 6 p.m.), to detail the planned renovation project.
The hall is located on property acquired by the city in June 2016, for “the expansion of the current R.A. Nicholson neighbourhood park,” adjacent to the hall, according to a report before council at the time.
“Staff have investigated the Hall for potential adaptive reuse,” including childcare operations, the report noted. “The Hall requires some renovations to meet current building code standards, but is generally in good shape.”
The current plan calls for the hall to be renovated and used for before- and after-school care and also as a licensed daycare, in addition to rentals for community events.
Scott Groves, Surrey’s Manager of Civic Facilities, said detailed plans will be unveiled at Thursday’s open house.
Moving the hall back “four or five metres,” he said, would make the intersection safer for vehicles and pedestrians.
“Currently the building sticks out beyond what it should for that corner of the road, and visibility isn’t great,” Groves told the Now-Leader. “We want to keep it as close to the corner as we can, so it’ll be moved four or five metres, diagonally, to pull it back a bit. We’re kind of restoring the distance it was originally from the road, that corner, because the intersection is much larger than it was years ago.”
The hall renovations would include bathroom and kitchen upgrades, Groves said. “The inside of the hall itself is quite beautiful and in good condition,” he noted.
Moving a playground closer to the hall, from across 75th Avenue, is proposed.
“The idea is to ask the question about the playground,” he explained. “We’re not looking to move it if people don’t want that, we’re asking the question. It’s an option at this point, one of the reasons we’re doing this consultation with the community.”
Strawberry Hill Hall is listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places (historicplaces.ca). The structure, once known as Strawberry Hill Farmers Institute Hall, is described on the website as “a utilitarian, front-gabled rectangular building.”
The hall “reflects the presence and organization of early farmers who settled in the rich agricultural uplands of the Strawberry Hill neighbourhood, and serves as a testament to the success and persistence of the agricultural community in Surrey.”
The area derived its name from the strawberries harvested by the area’s Japanese settlers “from between the stumps of old-growth trees, prior to the land being fully cleared,” the website notes. “The Strawberry Hill Farmers Institute was founded on September 3, 1909, and the Hall was constructed with the help of donations, grants and volunteer labour on land donated by the first president of the Institute, George Henry Flux. An essential part of community life, the Institute held lectures on farming practices, hosted social activities and provided assistance to new settlers.”