A week of Haney history

Heritage Week focused on downtowns, history can bring in money

Plaque shows Maple Ridge's first traffic light.

Plaque shows Maple Ridge's first traffic light.

You’ve likely passed by the heritage plaques, pictures and mosaics in downtown Maple Ridge a hundred times without stopping and looking at the small photos and vignettes that tell of days gone by.

On a street pole, just off Lougheed Highway on 224th Street, there is a copy of an old photo from the Maple Ridge Museum. It shows Maple Ridge’s first traffic light in the same intersection, in 1953.

Maple Ridge Historical Society president Erica Williams would like people try to see these photos and stop for a few moments and absorb some of the facts about the city’s past.

A sense of common history could help people preserve the past for future generations, Williams said.

She gave a walking tour of the downtown last weekend, pointing out some markers, as part of Heritage Week, Feb. 16 to 22.

She focused on Memorial Peace Park and 224th Street and the plaques, pictures and memorials that use a variety of media to tell of the early years.

One of the  premises in the area, Kitchen on the Ridge, at Lougheed and 224th, is the oldest surviving cafe in Haney.

Maple Ridge is the sixth-oldest city in B.C., she notes.

However, it never had the prominence or importance of New Westminster, Victoria and Vancouver.

And its natural wealth actually hurt its historical health.

The easy access to huge fir and cedar timbers meant most buildings were made from wood, which doesn’t last as long as stone or brick.

“We don’t have many of the original buildings still there.”

In addition to the walking tour, the city’s heritage commission also gave out its Heritage Awards Thursday at St. Andrew’s Heritage Church Hall in Port Haney.

The Maple Ridge Historical Society and the Emerald Pig Theatrical Society shared one award –  the Sheila Nickols award for community history and heritage teaching – for their work last summer on Maple Ridge’s 140th birthday celebrations.

During July’s festivities, which also marked Maple Ridge becoming a city, instead of a district municipality, the two groups re-enacted several of the speeches given by a mayors a century ago.

Josine Eikelenboom received the heritage landscape award for preserving her property as an iconic landscape.

Nickols herself, along with Andrea Lister, received the history and heritage research and publication award for the first volume of Looking Back, a compilation of Nickols’ heritage columns that run in The News.

The City of Maple Ridge also received an award for contributing to the preservation of history by making its Christmas street lights using the original molds from the 1950s.

Fred Braches won the history hero special award for his writing and research, and the Maple Ridge Concert Band won for its planned restoration of the bandstand in Memorial Peace Park.

Heritage Canada: The National Trust has chosen main streets as its theme for the 2015 Heritage Week. It says downtowns have long been a focal point for parades and celebrations, as well as memorials.

Heritage B.C. says heritage can attract tourism, stimulate investment and provide a rich setting for commerce.

“The economic value of heritage recognition is well established.”