‘Last Stand’ : Renewed online effort urges grassroots support to stay demolition for Hope Station House

(Photo/Gerda Borden)(Photo/Gerda Borden)
An undated picture of the Hope Station House. There is currently a resident-driven movement to ask for a stay of demolition while funding sources are sought to restore the Station House to its former glory. (Photo/Save The Hope Station House)An undated picture of the Hope Station House. There is currently a resident-driven movement to ask for a stay of demolition while funding sources are sought to restore the Station House to its former glory. (Photo/Save The Hope Station House)
A March 1984 article from when the Hope Station House was first saved from demolition. (Photo/Save the Hope Station House)A March 1984 article from when the Hope Station House was first saved from demolition. (Photo/Save the Hope Station House)
The Hope Station House, in its original location. (Photo/Save The Hope Station House)The Hope Station House, in its original location. (Photo/Save The Hope Station House)

The latest effort to save the Hope Station House has gone virtual.

Arlene and April Webster, two members of the Coaltion for the Preservation of the Hope Station House have launched savethehopestationhouse.ca, a hub designed to give grassroots supporters the tools to ask for a 6-month stay of demolition.

The website reviews a history of the Hope Station House, which was built in 1916. Fast forward to the late 90s and into the 2000s, and the Station House was converted into a community gathering place and landmark for music in the Hope area. The Hope Station House Community Arts and Heritage Society held dinners there, accompanied by local musicians. It’s currently slated for demolition in March 2021.

“I think a lot of people realize the value of heritage tourism and the importance of this building in particular to the community,” April said. “The website is supposed to be a call to action.”

A brief recent history

Back in 2014, the provincial government denied Hope Station House Community Arts and Heritage Society’s operating license for the Station House until repairs needed since 2010 were completed. In 2017, even after residents worked to renovate the building, district officials estimated the costs to fully repair the Station House were too high for the then-council to come to a consensus.

Hope Mayor Pete Robb told The Standard in December that the Hope Station House will demolished in early 2021. Once a popular gathering place, the Station House has sat empty for a long while. In addition to a sum of $650,000 from the provincial government, the demolition is part of a settlement with the province from a few years ago when the B.C. Transporation and Financing Authority failed to undertake consultation with First Nations before attempting to transfer land ownership to the district of Hope. Hope is regarded as ancestral land of the Chawathil First Nation.

The consultation should have come in the form of a courtesy letter to inform First Nations authorities of the ownership transfer and to ensure it did not impact their rights and title. District officials issued a written statement at the time, stating they met the conditions of the agreement between the district and the ministry, but that First Nations consultation was not one of those conditions nor was it referenced by the province.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has since spoken with the Chawathil First Nation to gauge their interest in operating the Station House and has learned they have no interest. The $650,000 has been set aside and could be used in the future for a visitors centre or a museum.

The Hope Station House is not listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places’s website, historicplaces.ca. Hope has three entries in the Register: The Fort Hope National Historic Site, Christ Church National Historic Site and the Othello Tunnels.

The Register, a collaboration between federal, provincial and territorial governments, states more than 20 per cent of the country’s historic buildings have been demolished.

‘We just need more time’

The Websters said previous conversations with Heritage BC and MLA Jackie Tegert indicated that a “groundswell” of support from the community was crucial to the cause of saving the Station House.

RELATED: Ministry ‘fumbled the ball’ on Station House: Hope mayor

“Our real ask is for a stay of demolition to give us more time for the community to work in partnership with the district to help explore some other options,” April said. “There’s a lot of will and desire out there to have something happen with it.”

A six-month stay of demolition doesn’t immediately solve the district’s impending land lease expiration at the end of May. However, April said Station House advocates hope to appeal to the the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to extend the lease as necessary.

Arlene said Boston Bar received $1.9 million from federal and provincial grant funding to restore their own station house, breathing new life into a structure erected originally in 1914.

“That is a possibility,” Arlene said of the grant funding. “If Boston Bar can do it, why can’t we? It’s possible. We can do this. We just need more time.”

Arlene stressed she wants to seek funding that would be of no cost to district taxpayers, which is an often-stated sticking point for people more hesitant to join efforts to save the Station House.

How you can help

The website contains simple letter templates and contact information for all members of District of Hope Council, MLA Tegert, MP Mark Strahl, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Rob Fleming and the deputy minister, Kayla Krishna.

Christian and Erica Ward created a SumOfUs.org petition, calling for members of Hope’s council to “take immediate action to prevent the destruction of one of Hope’s only and most beautiful historic buildings, the Station House.” The petition has gathered more than 1,400 signatures and is linked on the Save the Hope Station House page.

RELATED: The first time Hope’s community came together to save the station house

The Websters said there is a Facebook page with the latest updates on the station house’s status, found at Facebook.com/savethehopestationhouse.

As of Jan. 28, the Save the Hope Station House movement has started a letter-writing campaign. They aim to collect personalized letters advocating for the stay. Letters were to be submitted Feb. 2. The letters would then be presented to district council for discussion at the next meeting, which will be held via Facebook Live at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 8. April encouraged those concerned about the Station House to tune in online.

Though the Groundhog Day deadline has passed, Arlene and April encouraged residents to continue making their voices heard to elected officials. April reported on Monday that the letter writing campaign has been promising so far and they have received unsolicited letters from The Langley Heritage Society and the Port Moody Heritage Society.

‘We need cultural heritage’

Arlene said those fighting to save the Station House are feeling hopeful.

“This is a worthwhile landmark,” she said. “It doesn’t matter the size of the town. We need cultural heritage, and it’s an important part of the fabric of our community. Yes, it’s old and rickety, but there are older houses in town that people are still living in and they look really presentable.”

April remembered volunteering at dinners and music events at the Station House as a child. She has pictures from the first time the Station House was saved from demolition, back in the late 1980s.

“There’s been a lot of people who wanted to have this in the town, and it’s like a symbol of the town,” April said. “We owe it to all of them and to ourselves and the future of the community to have this last stand and fight for it.”

– With Files from Emelie Peacock

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