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Team behind schoolhouse renovation in Abbotsford wins heritage award

South Poplar project receives Outstanding Award in conservation category
The renovation of the South Poplar schoolhouse in Abbotsford has been recognized with a Heritage BC Award. (Submitted photo)

The restoration team behind Abbotsford’s historic South Poplar schoolhouse has received an award from Heritage BC.

Travis Thuro and Ian Boese of Thuro Construction and Design, who worked with staff from Heritage Abbotsford Society, received an Outstanding Award in the conservation category of the Heritage BC Awards, presented May 2 at a reception in Nelson.

The annual awards are presented to projects and people across the province who have made an impact on heritage stewardship and conservation.

This year, 22 recipients were recognized in five categories.

Christina Reid, executive director of Heritage Abbotsford, said Thuro and Boese “demonstrated excellence through their hard work.”

“Training and education is an integral part of the society’s Applied Heritage Preservation program. What was so different about this process was the level of care Travis and Ian took to honour the history of the building. They really went above and beyond, made it personal,” she said.

RELATED: Abbotsford’s last one-room schoolhouse celebrates renovation

The Heritage Abbotsford Society received funding in 2021 to restore the building – Abbotsford’s last remaining one-room schoolhouse – under the Unique Heritage Infrastructure stream of the Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program.

Since its founding in the 1960s, the society (previously the MSA Museum Society) has identified, reviewed and recorded a number of older buildings in need of both restoration and protection.

“The building itself is culturally significant, and we wanted to support the owner – the Abbotsford school district – in preserving it,” Reid said of the schoolhouse.

She said the project was designed to serve as an economic stimulus package for trades.

“That’s where Thuro Construction came into the picture. Travis and Ian connected with alumni and helped us build context and came up with elegant solutions to some tricky challenges in the process,” Reid said.

Heritage BC chair Britney Dack said the restoration of the schoolhouse is “an excellent example of a project that is embedded in community.”

“It stands out in its incorporation of the TRC (Truth and Reconciliation) Calls to Action, and in using the project to create learning opportunities for local students,” she said.

The schoolhouse – located at the corner of Gladwin and Huntingdon roads – served as the first iteration of what is now MEI (Mennonite Educational Institute) and Columbia Bible College, and eventually opened its doors as a public school in January 1933.

Once construction of the current school, now South Poplar Traditional School, was completed in the early 1960s, the older building was no longer used for regular lessons. In 2005, it was placed on the municipal heritage register.

In 2020, the school district agreed to let Heritage Abbotsford restore the building.

An open house of the renovated building was held in December 2023.

RELATED: Abbotsford Heritage Society wins award for historic Turner House

Vikki Hopes

About the Author: Vikki Hopes

I have been a journalist for almost 40 years, and have been at the Abbotsford News since 1991.
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