The Pitt Meadows Museum is celebrating 20 years in the Old General Store building on Harris Road. (Pitt Meadows Museum)

The Pitt Meadows Museum is celebrating 20 years in the Old General Store building on Harris Road. (Pitt Meadows Museum)

Looking Back: Pitt Meadows Museum stands test of time

This year also marks the 160th birthday of British Columbia.

As Heritage Month comes to an end, the Pitt Meadows Museum continues to celebrate the theme – Heritage Stands the Test of Time.

How better to represent this concept in Pitt Meadows than to have a year-long anniversary party celebrating the museum’s 20-year tenure in the Old General Store building on Harris Road.

This year also marks the 160th birthday of British Columbia.

It is amazing how much the No. 8 factors into the history of our community museum site. So amazing in fact, we are highlighting “18 things you didn’t know about the Old General Store Site”:

• 1886 – the store is built on a site on Herring Road on the banks of the Fraser River;

• 1908 – the store is moved to the site it sits on today;

• 1988 – the McEwan family has the building designated a municipal heritage structure – the first in Pitt Meadows – and fancy iron gates go on the front of the building;

• 1998 – the Pitt Meadows Museum opens in the site on Pitt Meadows Day.

The building was in off-shore ownership when the district of Pitt Meadows purchased the site in 1997 and spent more than eight months restoring it before the museum moved in.

The building closed as a store in 1930 – so no, you did not buy your lottery ticket here. And, you guessed it, that was 88 years ago.

In 1885, the CP Rail line was completed just to the north of where the store would soon be located, and parts of the building are said to sit on the CPR right of way, and, at the time of restoration in 1997, retention of those parts had to be negotiated into the museum’s use of the site.

Mr. Baynes remembered (in an oral history recorded in 1980) the store being open to each day to 8 p.m., as this allowed the building to be used for “social gatherings” each evening.

Built heritage often stands the test of time because a building’s use evolves to make it relevant in the community as time goes by.

This grand old lady was once the place to go to get supplies, pay bills, send mail and meet or greet and catch up on news, and, at the same time, house the storekeepers’ families.

When that time had passed, she became a home and a storage facility with the last of these home owners realizing the necessity of heritage designation for the site.

After a short period of neglect through offshore ownership in the 1990s, a thoughtful municipal council came to her rescue by realizing her continued existence could only be guaranteed by making her relevant again – enter the museum and archives.

Happy 20th tenant birthday to us.

Leslie Norman is

curator at Pitt Meadows Museum and Archives.