Fort Langley: Some styles not worth preserving

Dear Editor,

There are museums, and then there are living, breathing historical districts that preserve character without stifling innovation and design.

Fairhaven, in Washington State, has managed to mix older buildings (much older than most of the commercial buildings in Fort Langley) with new buildings that complement what was there. But of course, the older buildings in Fairhaven are much more substantial in size and quality than anything in Fort Langley.

Ladysmith, Maple Ridge, and Nanaimo have good examples of publicly accessible on-line databases that identify and celebrate the heritage of those communities. The important features of the historical buildings are identified.

Many of Port Moody’s buildings on its publicly accessible community heritage register could easily be transplanted into Fort Langley. The building style promoted in the Fort Langley Building Facade Guidelines is simply not unique in western Canada (eg. Fort Edmonton), or even in comparison to nearby communities, and it is doubtful that it represents the style of the majority of buildings built along Glover Road in the past 100 years.

Langley Township and, in particular Fort Langley, has no publicly available community heritage register like the information that those communities have preserved, protected, and made available to the public through the internet. The Centennial Museum database contains Fort Langley photos often with little information about the buildings other than the genealogy of the owners.

I encourage everyone to look at the photos of Fort Langley to see what has been preserved since its earliest days, and to evaluate whether many of the buildings in the photos should have been preserved (and were not) or are worth mimicking. Serial Numbers 2924, 1240, 1069, 1355, 773, 2767, 579 and 4451 are somewhat instructive in demonstrating how little the current Fort Langley resembles anything from its past.

That being said, what is charming now is but a short few years away from being ramshackle. It is expensive to maintain and preserve buildings, especially if they were built with a usable life span of 50 years or less.

At whose expense should such buildings be preserved? I dare say not many taxpayers are in favour of tax dollars being spent to save buildings that are of little architectural value or uniqueness or require substantial investment to rehabilitate.

We have a private citizen who wants to construct an attractive building on a vacant commercial lot, which will have underground parking and will make use of durable materials.

The major downfall of the proposed building, according to some, is that it has a third storey. The Fort Langley Hotel clearly had two and a half to three storeys (see serial number 1355). It burned down in the 1970s.

Maybe, just maybe, there are more important needs in 2014 to focus on than replicating an 1890s two-storey boomtown look for Fort Langley.

Christine Burdeniuk, Langley

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