Surrey’s historic Strawberry Hill Hall has “extensive damage” after a fire early Thursday morning (April 29), stalling plans to open a preschool there, along with childcare and community events.
Steve Serbic, Surrey Fire Service assistant chief of operations, said the department received multiple calls around 5 a.m.
He said when crews arrived, the fire was “fully involved.”
Serbic said crews knocked down the second-alarm fire from the outside, and no injuries were reported. Crews cleared the scene around 8 a.m.
The hall, Serbic said, is a “total write-off” as the fire was through the roof.
However, he noted it might not be a complete loss as it’s a heritage building and could be saved.
Serbic added there is no cause for the fire as of yet, but Surrey RCMP is investigating.
— Lauren Collins (@laurenpcollins1) April 29, 2021
The hall, built in 1909, was in the process of being renovated, which involved moving the hall a few metres away from the street corner, to make the intersection safer for motorists and pedestrians, according to city hall.
The $1.2-million rehabilitation project was expected to be completed sometime this year, as a place for new preschool and childcare spaces, and community rentals.
Located at 75th Avenue and 121st Street, the Strawberry Hill structure is among the oldest community halls in the city, and is listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places (historicplaces.ca).
In June 2020, four years after the city purchased the lot for an amount not disclosed in a 2016 report to city council, Proactive Construction was awarded the contract for the hall’s rehabilitation project.
“The Parks, Recreation & Culture Department will operate the facility,” notes a report to city council, “providing licensed preschool, before and after school care, and cultural programming on evenings and weekends, while also making the facility available for approved community uses through rentals.”
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 historicplaces.ca 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.”
– With files from Tom Zillich
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