BCHF News Langley Heritage Society celebrates 40 years

Langley Heritage Society celebrates 40 years

Fort Langley’s 1915 CNR Station is one of the most visited sites in Fort Langley and was one of the Langley Heritage Society’s first restoration projects. (LHS photo)

Sept. 19 will mark 40 years since a handful of people gathered to create the Langley Heritage Society.

They were dedicated to the idea of preserving local historic buildings, natural landscapes and historic roads, at a time when urbanization was ramping up in the Fraser Valley.

Society volunteers have spearheaded and assisted with dozens of restoration projects. From the classic 1915 CNR Station in Fort Langley, to Sperling Church, historic Michaud House in Langley City, Karr/Mercer barn at Derby, to the Lochiel School in Campbell Valley Regional Park. 

Many of these structures had been neglected, vandalized or faced demolition,  but each has new life. Key partnerships with the Township of Langley, Langley City, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Canadian National Railways and community groups underscore the society’s success.

Most buildings also have tenants living in them who care deeply about these heritage structures. This innovative model for preservation has been recognized by Heritage BC and the British Columbia Historical Federation.

“It is very rewarding to look at our successes and remember the wonderful people we have worked with and encouraged us,” says society president Fred Pepin.

An early LHS initiative included documenting historically significant buildings and sites in the Langley region, which became the foundation for the Township of Langley’s heritage inventory.

Today many have official heritage designation. In looking to the future, LHS plans to remain a strong voice for Langley’s heritage. The board of directors recently developed a new strategic plan to expand membership, attract new volunteers, acquire and maintain heritage sites, and sustain the volunteer board.

Mr Heritage, Langley Heritage Society president Fred Pepin. (LHS photo)

The CNR Station in Fort Langley is the Society’s most publicly accessible building and operates from Victoria Day through Thanksgiving by volunteers, under the leadership of CNR station manager Helen Williams.

The Society also plays an important advocacy role: Fred Pepin and board member Tom Annandale are respected members of the Township of Langley’s Heritage Advisory Committee which helps guide town councillors’ consideration of heritage issues.

The Society awards an annual $1,000 scholarship to a Langley high school student in honour of the late Bays Blackhall, a dedicated campaigner for Langley’s heritage. LHS also promotes heritage awareness by sponsoring selected schools to attend programs at the Langley Centennial Museum, and sponsors the local school district’s Heritage Fair.

We often receive letters of appreciation from people with direct links to restored buildings. Judy Lamb-Richardson’s great-grandparents, Herbert and Emily Dixon, once lived at Dixon House where they ran a dairy farm.

“I don’t know if whomever was involved had ever thought during the restoration process how much that act would mean to the generations coming after to have the opportunity to touch the handprints of their ancestors,” she says. “There are no words to tell you how much I appreciate this and hope to visit with my sisters.”

In 2013 Langley Heritage Society received an Award of Honour from Heritage B.C. for its restoration work on Dixon House and Barn. Fred Pepin led the project, which included carrying 136 sheets of plywood and dozens of bundles of shingles up to the barn roof. Pepin has been honoured as a Freeman of Langley Township for his tireless work over these 40 years, and is dubbed Mr. Heritage. “This is a legacy that I decided I wanted to leave for the community,” he says.