They're old, charming, and sometimes in need of a face-lift. You often walk by them without a second glance. And if they could talk, oh the stories they would tell.
Delta, particularly Ladner, is home to seemingly countless heritage buildings. The municipality's rural and urban heritage inventories list more than 170 buildings and local features.
Many are obvious: the 1912 Tudor-style building home to the Delta Museum and Archives in the heart of Ladner Village; Kirkland House, the picturesque 1911 Edwardian farm house on Arthur Drive where many couples have wed; and Cammidge House, the white heritage farm house at the entrance to Boundary Bay Regional Park. The Brackman-Ker Warehouse on Chisholm Street, built in 1892 by local farmers, recently gained notoriety in the village when it collapsed one morning this past December.
But there are many lesser known gems in South Delta. In honour of Heritage Week, Feb. 21 to 27, the Leader asked Delta Museum and Archives assistant archivist Catharine McPherson and local historian and author Gwen Szychter (pictured, above and on our cover in front of the former Ladner Meat Market) for a few of their favourite heritage buildings that may not normally catch the eye of the average Deltan.
Szychter, a Ladner resident who was one of Delta's first Friends of Heritage award recipients, says the survival of many of Delta's heritage buildings has depended much on whether its owners are genuinely interested in heritage.
She would like to see the establishment of a heritage precinct in Ladner along Arthur Drive, noting the idea was brought up decades ago at Municipal Hall but has since been "stuck on a shelf."
"A heritage precinct would change what could and could not be done to homes on Arthur Drive," she says.
Szychter would also like the municipality to provide financial incentives to homeowners of heritage buildings to encourage the use of heritage colours and signage to help alleviate the cost of paying tribute to local history through architecture.
Her own interest in Ladner's history came about shortly after achieving her Master of Arts degree in Canadian History in the early 1990s. She wanted to see more care put into choosing street names in South Delta, and was encouraged to join Delta's heritage advisory committee.
While on the committee Szychter spent much time in the museum's archives and met residents who came in to research the homes they lived in.
That sparked an interest in writing books about the area. After completing Ladner's Landing of Yesteryear, she was hooked.
Szychter used to give walking tours of historic Ladner. Today, readers can use her books (available at the Delta Museum and Archives as well as local libraries) to enjoy their own self-guided tours.
For images of the heritage buildings listed below, courtesy of the Delta Museum and Archives, picked up this week's issue (Feb. 25) of the South Delta Leader.
There are numerous heritage buildings along Arthur Drive—so many the road is the focus of one of Szychter's books, Beyond Ladner's Landing—including the circa 1929 Bell House, home to Edith and Edward Bell, a well-respected Notary public.
The Bells raised three children in the home until they moved in 1965, Szychter writes, adding the exterior of the house looks as elegant today as it does in photos thanks to its modern-day owners.
She notes the Dutch Colonial Revival-style gambrel roof is unique among houses in Ladner.
The Bell family also made numerous contributions to the museum society, McPherson says, generously adding to their collection of photographs, maps and plans.
Joseph Jordon, a local liveryman in Ladner's Landing at the turn of the century, owned Jordan's Stables at the north end of Elliott Street from where he offered horse and buggy rentals as well as hauled freight, passengers and mail to New Westminster.
"It is said that in the summer on a good day he could run to Brownsville (across the river from New Westminster) in just two and half hours!," McPherson says in an email. "In his spare time, Jordan worked as Delta’s first police constable."
Today, the cheerily painted and charming facility is home to West Coast Seeds.
This is a "rather unassuming building" Szychter admits in Ladner's Landing of Yesteryear. But she has a fondness for the former meat market building, now a commercial building home to H&R Block and AR Hair Studio.
Formerly a reading room (back when there were no public libraries) the building was located on 48 Ave., where it was built around 1902, and then 51 St. before it was bought in 1913 by Andrew York and moved to Delta Street for his butcher shop, much to the dismay of other business owners on the street due to its derelict appearance, writes Szychter.
York restored the building, and it remained the Ladner Meat Market under a number of owners until the 1970s. Because of its former sites, the part of the building that was home to the reading room is older than any other building on Delta Street.
The circa 1930 Gazely House on Central Avenue is one of Szychter's "absolute favourites."
"The people who bought it have done a wonderful job of restoring it," she says.
"Sometimes, being my favourite depends on what people have been able to do with a building."
Although it's small in stature, McPherson sent over this photo of Tom Todd in his garden outside the Todd House on 48th Avenue as a tribute to the care put into the restoration of the home estimated to be built in the early 1890s.
"It is nice to see that someone has taken the care to do this given its size," she says.
Szychter writes the original owner was from Northern Ireland who came to Delta in 1885 to farm on Westham Island, and grew potatoes on this property as well.
Restoration work on this Boundary Bay farmhouse earned its owners and renovators recognition from the Heritage Society of B.C. about a decade ago.
The Gunn family (who bought the house in 1897), Century Group and Tsawwassen architect Rod McFarlane received an Outstanding Achievement award from the society in 2001 for their work on the house that neighbours Earthwise Society.
McPherson wanted to include a heritage home in Tsawwassen on the list. Szychter notes that sadly, not many heritage homes in Tsawwassen survived development that took place in the area after construction of the George Massey Tunnel.
Pictured are members of the Alexander family, the original owners, circa 1895.
John Oliver house was built in 1885 in East Delta. "Honest John Oliver" was a Delta pioneer and a B.C. premier, says McPherson, adding he was an active member of the Delta community.
"There are some great stories about John Oliver and his family as the children recollect the many times the home flooded and how they rode logs in the fields," she says.
The house still stands today at the end of 112 St.