SURREY — A worn plaque that reads “Designated Heritage Site” on the front of the 125-year-old Anniedale School shows its age.
“We want this preserved,” said Surrey Historical Society president Michael Gibbs as he gazed upon the one-room building on a lot at the edge of 176th Street and Highway 1.
“It’s rotting away. It’s not being maintained.”
The building’s fate is unknown but preserving it is the top item on the society’s agenda.
“We’re concerned about the damp, mold, vandalism… Then there’s the accessibility of it,” said Gibbs.
As it stands, the school’s future depends on a $17,000 structural assessment the city has ordered to see if it can withstand a move. McGinn Engineering and Preservation has completed the report but its results have yet to be revealed.
The society hopes it can be moved to somewhere in Cloverdale, ideally to the Surrey Museum site, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards.
Councillor Dave Woods, Surrey Heritage Advisory Commission chair, said the city already has plans for that site and “quite frankly, Anniedale School is not in it.”
Woods said he, too, would like to see the school preserved but that there are a lot of “question marks.”
“Even if you establish you could move it to a site, is that going to require the city possibly buying land? How much would the move cost? It gets into maintaining the building. So there’s a lot of unanswered questions,” he said.
Further complicating matters is a “convoluted” situation in terms of the site’s ownership, said Woods. The school district has sold the property but the agreement has a “long completion date,” according to spokesman Doug Strachan.
Question marks aside, Gibbs said the old schoolhouse’s historical significance cannot be understated.
“The school is amazing. That was what education was like for the first 25, 30 years of this community’s existence.” He argued such a resource should not just be preserved, but should be accessible to the general public.
The school, originally built on Townline Road (96th Avenue) and 182nd Street in 1891, is the oldest still standing in Surrey. It’s listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places and was dedicated to the children of Surrey in 1987.
“It is crucial that the community including teachers, past and present, students and their parents appreciate Anniedale’s potential and help save it from neglect and inaccessibility,” said Gibbs.
The society has volunteers ready to help, be that with labour, fundraising or in other capacities, noted Gibbs.
“We’ve even threatened to throw this on the back of a truck ourselves,” he added. “We’re just asking the city to step up to the plate. This is not acceptable.”
The SHS hopes the community will get involved in its fight to save Anniedale. They urge residents to write to Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner and the rest of council as well as local MPs and MLAs.
They are also soliciting support from the BC Teachers’ Federation.
“We’ll do whatever it takes,” said Gibbs.
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