A listing on the City of Surrey’s heritage register and attempts by the city’s heritage commission have failed to protect an 86-year-old home.
The Neville Curtis House in Cloverdale has been torn down.
The 1930 craftsman at 5658 182 Street was built by its first owner, Neville Curtis, a prominent local citizen and freelance photographer whose images for the Vancouver Sun and Surrey Leader are part of a collection at the Surrey Archives that are gradually being digitized, putting a new generation of Surrey residents in touch online with their city’s past.
For Cloverdale’s Cathy Craig, the demolition is bitter news.
“This was our grandparent’s house,” she wrote on The Reporter’s Facebook Page last week, describing how lovely it was in its day, alluding to cherished family memories in the home.
“I grew up walking from my parents’ house to my grandparents’ house so I knew the street and the people on it well.” She lives nearby and “so was watching what was going on there,” she added.
“I was just looking at photos taken in the house,” she said. “It had lovely hardwood floors, some leaded windows and glass door handles on the inside doors. Lots of happy memories spent there.”
Area resident Sylvia Evans was out of town for a couple of weeks only to come home to find three houses torn down in her neighbourhood, including this one.
“Sad to see perfectly good homes taken down,” she said. “It seems too easy and I think it’s time to stop… Most of these replacement homes do not fit in the existing neighbourhood. Perhaps we should learn from other countries the value of keeping older homes and fixing them up. This is not the same Surrey as 20 years ago.”
In January, the city’s Heritage Advisory Commission opposed granting a demolition permit for the Neville Curtis House, and asked staff to impose a 60-day protection order while the property was assessed.
However, in March (“Heritage treasures in peril,” March 16), Coun. Dave Woods said there was little the city could do to prevent the home’s demolition because it’s privately owned.
The neighbourhood is an enclave of heritage homes built during the Depression that are listed on the city’s heritage register.
But only one, the Cecil Heppell house at 5818 182 Street, is formally protected by a Heritage Revitalization Agreement specifying key elements to be retained or protected, the city’s main tool for preservation.
The large lots and location just east of the historic town centre are a draw for developers seeking to build large luxury homes.
“There’s been quite a lot of interest in that area,” said Don Luymas, manager of community planning for the City of Surrey. “Unless the house is protected, there’s not a whole lot the commission can do.”
The street is a picturesque suburban idyll, populated by expansive lots with mature landscaping and attractive character homes that date back to the interwar years, when a number of Surrey’s “more prominent citizens relocated to this street, drawn to its semi rural estate character,” according to the Canadian Heritage Register.
Former reeve of Surrey Robert D. MacKenzie built a craftsman bungalow at 5634 182 Street in 1922. Eva and Barry Creelman’s home at 5678 182 St. is nearby. Barry Creelman worked for the Surrey Co-op for 48 years, and helped found the Surrey Credit Union.
Eye on Surrey
Curtis was an eye on Surrey during the early 1950s and ‘60s. His camera recorded shining rodeo queens being ushered down Main Street, ceremonial throws at curling tournaments, and the uncertain first steps at kids’ dance recitals.
His photographic legacy – some 7,000 negatives donated in the 1970s – constitutes a rich visual record of what life was like more than half a century ago.
He became a freelance writer and photographer in his 60s when he worked for a number of newspapers in the Lower Mainland, including the Vancouver Sun, the White Rock Sun, Surrey Leader and Langley Advance.