Historic Fort Langley town

Historic buildings, antique shopping and walks along the river

I am so torn, so torn. I love history, I love historic buildings and researching history. But.. as they say... historiography is very one sided. Take this description from Parks Canada:

Fort Langley drew Indigenous people who traded furs and fish for blankets and other goods. To strengthen its position, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) encouraged its men to marry Indigenous women. These alliances allowed the HBC access to Indigenous trade networks, and the fort prospered. They also gave Indigenous families priority access to the European resources for sale at the fort.

I mean, you don't get a more stereotypical story, it has become a myth, a white angle lens myth. As if the history of this place started in 1827: "Fort Langley dates from a time when the boundary between British and American possession of the trans-mountain west had not yet been decided" is the first sentence. [Wikipedia]. And of course it is true that the fort itself started then, but it did not come into being in a vacuum! And ... "possession"? I draw a line on a map and put my name on a piece of paper - and I "own"... what exactly?

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Also - historic "Fort Langley" - is a reconstruction ("It's only a model!"), and not the original. Then again - I would gladly go to the Notre Dame after the rebuild, and I enjoyed visiting the German buildings that were mostly bombed to shreds in the war but rebuilt to their original shape. At least they showed the few stones that were left from the original. And does it matter? The building stands as it once did. What does 'historic' mean?

So, disregarding Kant, I will enjoy the "ding an sich", I will leave interpretation and inception layers upon layers to those who know much more than me and have held historiographic concepts in their hands to turn them around and reorder them like a Rubik's cube.

Here is what you can see if you visit the pretty town of Fort Langley. And many thanks to the Langley Heritage Society for their preservation efforts and information. From their site: The Langley Heritage Society is located on the traditional and unceded lands of the Kwantlen, Katzie, Matsqui, and Semiahmoo peoples. We respect this land and its original occupants.”

Jump to:

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Fort Langley Cemetery - 1884

The Langley heritage society lists the cemetery as a historic site, I guess because boundaries were set and a purpose laid out, tomb stones erected to further claim the soil by placing a sacrificial dead body.

Also learned there is a 'find a grave' website from which we find details for this gravestone:

James James
Died Jan. 16, 1894
Aged 79 years 11 months
Dear father thou has from us flown
To the regions far above
We to thee erect this stone
Consecrated by our love.

We're debating whether it is a bummer to die 1 month short of 80 or a win to have 2 prime numbers? I think the latter.

I also quickly checked that my grave is not there yet.

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St Andrews Church - 1885

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St Andrews Church was built at the cost of $1,000, the heritage society tells us. The church's floors, pews, and back door of the sanctuary are original. The description includes a mention of a thing that is no longer: "the original bell is from the Hudson’s Bay Company ship the SS Beaver, the first steamship on the west coast of North America. It [the bell, not the ship] was destroyed in a fire in the bell tower in 1970."

The SS Beaver met its demise on 25 July 1888 "when an inebriated crew ran her aground on rocks in Burrard Inlet at Prospect Point in Vancouver's Stanley Park" where you can still find a small commemorative plague.  Wikipedia also mentions that "The Vancouver Maritime Museum houses a collection of Beaver remnants" if you want to see the bits that still are.

Image removed.Wreck of the SS Beaver, by Agnes Deans Cameron - Canadian Museum of History

CN Railway station - 1910

Much of the recent history of BC involves rail-based transportation and much of the colonization followed the creeping iron tentacles. The Fort Langley station was built for the Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR) as part of their westward expansion. CNoR found itself with significant debt due to the construction and insufficient revenues, and in 1917, the federal government effectively took control of the company and started the process which eventually combined various railroads into the Canadian National Railway (CN Rail).


The Fort Langley CN Railway station is maintained by very welcoming volunteers, the railway station has been fully renovated and contains a museum dedicated to the history of CN railway stations. It is surrounded by lovely gardens: "The gardens are maintained much like Station Master Richard Simpson and his wife Mary did from 1918 to 1929 when annual garden competitions happened between stations. The couple grew 37 varieties of perennials — from alyssum to zinnia. An article in the August 1917 edition of The Western Home Monthly magazine noted that Canadian Northern station agents were enthusiastically planting gardens." [Langley Heritage Society]

From the documentary above I saw that I had missed the model railway!!! Do go check that out; looks interesting.

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The small museum contains the recreated station master room and a number of historical artifacts on display. Entry by donation.

Image removed.For comparison: The Crossfield, Alberta railway office, ca. 1914 Image removed. Image removed.Digital Archives, Canadian Northern railway ca 1916 Image removed. Image removed. Image removed. Image removed. Image removed.Canadian Railroad historical Assoc. news report May-June 1961

Hope family carriage House - 1912

Image removed.Langley Centennial Museum archive

The Hope family carriage house is still standing (and based on this news article, was restored in 2014), a couple of blocks west of the Langley Community Hall. According to the archives, "the property was 5 acres, and the Carriage house accommodated horses and carriages necessary to connect with the Great Northern Railway Station in Port Kells. The second floor was used for feed and storage and as the caretakers' and gardener's residences. "

The actual Hope Family Home (now there's a Netflix title waiting for a plot!) was in use from about 1909 till 1928 when it burned down, and for a while the town itself was at risk; strong winds fanning the flames and sparks.

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Why Port Kells, when the Fort Langley Canadian Northern Railway Station was almost next door? Presumably because Great Northern Railway had routes that crossed the US border and connected to Seattle and into California

Image removed.By Elkman at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, map GNoR ca 1920 Image removed. Image removed. Image removed. Other view-worthy enjoyable things

Fort Langley Antique Mall

The Fort Langley Antique Mall is a 10,000-square-foot mall with 60 independent dealer booths and an absolute jumble of items that varies from the merely curious, the highly collectible, to the absolutely crazy.

The charm and danger of this place is not only that there is no room to maneuver at all (be careful with your backpack!) but it can also induce a need-to-own collector's fever where the unpacking at home can be a joyful reliving or an eyebrow-raising horror.

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Fraser River Walk

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A short walking trail follows the Fraser River, which runs just north of the historical down town.

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Main street: Glover Road

Most of the very cute shops are centered in a few blocks along Glover road. Great browsing opportunities.

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Tags: Diversions

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