The Coghlan Substation is 108 years old and once provided power to electric trains that took people and farm produce up and down the Fraser Valley. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance)

Historic B.C. building gets facelift with help from Sabrina series

Langley’s 108-year-old Coghlan Substation is seeing use in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

A bit of Hollywood magic helped restore part of one of Langley’s most iconic but least-known historic buildings.

Langley viewers watching Chilling Adventures of Sabrina may not realize that the Academy of Unseen Arts is just down the road.

The new Netflix drama, based on the Archie Comics character Sabrina the Teenage Witch, sees Sabrina switch from her normal, human high school to an institution that teaches conjuring and the dark arts.

The exterior shots of the Academy of Unseen Arts were provided by the Coghlan Substation, a power station on the B.C. Electric Rail (BCER) line that ran through the Lower Mainland.

Owner Bryant Ross was pleased that the producers provided resources to help clear away an old shed that had covered up part of the building’s facade for more than half a century.

“I’ve been here 30 years now, and it’s the first time I’ve seen the whole front,” said Ross.

Built in 1910, Coghlan was one of a series of five substations that provided electricity to the trains that traveled between New Westminster and Chilliwack, as well as to surrounding farmers.

• READ MORE: New signs for century-old substation

Since 1987, the building has been owned by Ross, who uses it as an art studio. Over the years it has been used by many well-known artists, including painters Norval Morrisseau, Issac Bignel, and Gerry Meeches, and Northwest Coast carvers Gene Brabant and the Hunt Family.

After the BCER shut down in the 1950s, a glass-making company bought the building. The new owners tore the front steps off the power station and built a wooden shed-like structure along the whole lower front of the building, covering up the former front door and several windows.

“The hard part was getting rid of that shed,” said Ross. He tore down part of it, but earlier this year, the producers of Sabrina came calling.

They cleared away much of the rest of the structure.

While they didn’t replace the front steps with permanent stairs, there’s now a plywood staircase treated to look like stone or cement. It gives visitors a good idea what the building looked like in its heyday.

Eventually, Ross would like to fully restore the front of the building.

“There’s still lots to do,” he said.

Windows need caulking, and the aging pitch-and-gravel roof is in need of replacing.

“Hopefully, there’ll be more movies, because that’s what I use to pay for it,” he said.

Multiple film and TV productions have used the structure over the past decade, ranging from Hallmark movies of the week to the CW series Supernatural.

“They ended up blowing it up in Supernatureal, with CGI,” Ross noted.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has continued to film there several times, as recently as early November, Ross said.

Located in the 6800 block of 256th Street, the building attracts a lot of attention from rural drivers and cyclists who find it suddenly appearing out of the trees next to the railway tracks.

Coghlan Station, and the surrounding Coghlan area, was named after BCER employees and Langley pioneers Henry and Nathaniel Coghlan, two brothers who cut more than 20,000 railway ties for the rail company during the line’s construction through the Fraser Valley.

The only other remaining substation from the BCER line stands in Sumas, where it has been converted into a private home.

The area around the building was also the scene of a grisly murder shortly after its construction.

Two Italian labourers working nearby got into a dispute. It ended when one man killed the other, cut off his head, and threw it down the power station’s well.

_________________________________

Is there more to this story?

mclaxton@langleyadvance.com

Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter

_________________________________

 

(Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance)

Actress Kiernan Shipka, who plays Sabrina, approached the “Academy for Unseen Arts” in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. (Warner Bros. Television/Netflix)

Just Posted

Air ambulance called to scene after report of shots fired in Abbotsford

Incident Monday afternoon in the area of Ross and Simpson roads

Chilliwack pauses to remember

Services held special significance, marking the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

B.C. Legions in need of young members to continue aiding veterans into the future

Lest we forget what thousands of men and women did to fight for Canada’s freedoms – but without new membership, many Legion chapters face dwindling numbers

Early morning bagpipe playing at Chilliwack memorial on Nov. 11

Piper Greg McCormick taking part in international Battle’s Over tribute at Piper Richardson statue

VIDEO: Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee dies

Marvel co-creator was well-known for making cameo appearances in superhero movies

Calgary 2026 leader expects close vote in Winter Games plebiscite

Residents to choose in a non-binding vote on Tuesday whether they want city to bid on 2026 Olympics

VIDEO: Newcomer kids see first Canadian snowfall

Children arrived in Canada with their mother and two siblings last week from Eritrea

Feds dropped ball with WWI anniversary tributes: historians

Wrote one historian: ‘Other than the Vimy Ridge celebration … I think they have done a very bad job’

Sides ‘far apart’ in Canada Post talks despite mediation, says union

The lack of a breakthrough means rotating strikes will resume Tuesday

Feds’ appeal of solitary confinement decision in B.C. to be heard

Judge ruled in January that indefinite such confinement is unconstitutional, causes permanent harm

Touching note left on Lower Mainland veteran’s windshield

A veteran is hoping the writers of a note know how much he was touched by their kind words.

BCHLers on NHL Central Scouting players to watch list

The list includes seven current BCHL skaters

B.C. health care payroll tax approved, takes effect Jan. 1

Employers calculating cost, including property taxes increases

Most Read