Neighbours celebrate Murrayville heritage with open house

Tours of historic Langley homes and shops dating back to the 1970s runs Saturday, from 1 to 4 p.m.

There’s a lot to celebrate about Murrayville’s heritage, according to Wally Martin and his neighbours Doug and Karen Haakonsen.

There’s even a connection, through Scotland, to Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. Murrayville founder Paul Murray’s family was from the small town of Rogart, where Macdonald’s grandparents were their neighbours. The future prime minister lived there for several years as a child, and Murray’s uncle was married to Sir John A.’s cousin, according to genealogist Karen Haakonsen.

Some of Langley’s oldest buildings, dating back to the 1880s and perhaps even the 1870s are in the Murrayville heritage conservation area surrounding the historic Five Corners intersection (now a roundabout) of Simmonds Road (48th Avenue), Johnston Townline Road (216th Street), and Old Yale Road.

Martin explained that the heritage are consists of “about 90 individual parcels of land, starting at the top of the hill with Murrayville school and going down on 48th and out Old Yale Road and about a half a dozen properties north and just a little south on 216th, and together, a lot of them have some sort of heritage building or whatever.”

Talking with his neighbour recently, Martin said, they realized that they’d both been in the area for 20 years, “And nobody knows that Five Corners exists as a heritage area, so why don’t we have a kind of open house for the public?”

They invited anyone inside the designated heritage area to participate.

READ MORE: Langley history explored through bevy of upcoming Heritage Week tours

“At least a dozen places have expressed some degree of interest in it,” Martin said, among them some churches and the Murrayville Community Hall.

They also got some interest from outside of the zone, including the Murrayville Library, just up the hill.

Of course, Martin himself will participate with his Princess and the Pea B&B, which he believes may be the oldest hotel in the province.

“I’ve been challenged on the statement a few times,” Martin said, “but nobody has ever proven me wrong.”

Martin noted that Murray moved to the area in 1874. It’s possible, Martin contends, that “the very first day he was here, some straggler wandered in and asked to sleep here for the night. And Murray would have said of course. That’s what they did in those days. So I use the date of 1874, and nobody can prove me wrong.”

The building that started out as Murray’s Traveller’s Hotel has lived a variety of lives since then: it was Langley’s first high school, the shoe repair business ran there for awhile, Martin is sure it was a motorcycle repair shop, “and I know it was a grow-op before we got there.

Martin refurbished the building and reopened it as the Travellers Hotel in 1998, but changed the name to the “more “romantic” Princess and the Pea B&B a short while later.

Even if late historian Norm Sherritt’s assessment that Martin’s building may “only” date back to 1887, it’s still Murrayville’s oldest building, the next being Sharon United Church, built in 1889, followed by the Presbyterian Church tucked in behind Murrayville Community Hall, which itself has accumulated a sizable history.

How each participant celebrates the the three-hour open house on Feb. 22, from 1 to 4 p.m., will be up to them, Martin said.

“How they operate that open house is entirely up to them,” he said. “I know the church behind the community hall is going to be giving coffee and cookies, and ourselves, we’ve got a bunch of old photographs.”

Martin’s photos will include a number of aerial photos taken of the Murrayville area for “stereo” 3D viewing through stereoscopes. To bring them to life, Martin scoured Craigslists from cities across North America, and finally found a stereoscope… in Maple Ridge. Visitors at his open house will get a chance to use it.

He also recruited Desiree Dyck to join the open house at the historic Murrayville Pumphouse right at the Five Corners intersection.

“She seems to know quite a bit about it,” said Martin. “She actually tested the water herself voluntarily, and posted the results on the Murrayville Facebook page. It’s perfect water – except it’s at the threshold for arsenic.”

Martin will also have a brochure from a walking tour of Murrayville, organized by the Langley Heritage Society about 20 years ago.

“There’s quite a few old houses,” said Martin. “I don’t know if they’re all going to be open or not, but people can still walk by if they want.”

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