Heritage house owners Rob O'Brennan and Gwyneth Jones receive a heritage plaque from Mayor Sharon Gaetz for their 1909 mansion known as Stonehurst. It was one of the first stone houses in Chilliwack.

Heritage homes in Chilliwack recognized for rich history

Gervan House on First and Stonehurst on Yale Road East are now protected under Chilliwack's updated heritage bylaws.

Two of Chilliwack’s most significant heritage homes received special heritage plaques presented by Mayor Sharon Gaetz on Thursday.

“Chilliwack has an incredible history and recognizing homes that are historically significant is important to the city,” said Mayor Gaetz.

Gervan House and Stonehurst are the first two homes to fall under Chilliwack heritage bylaws, after recent adoption by council of an updated policy on Heritage Designation.

The owners of the Stonehurst on Yale Road East, and the Gervan House on First Avenue, were also recognized last week for the careful work done to preserve the stately properties.

“We are proud of our history and of the incredible job both residences have done to lovingly preserve their heritage homes,” said Gaetz.

Both homes were notable for their architectural and structural elements. One is two and a half storeys high, which has not changed owners since the 1950s, and the other is a grand mansion built of stone.

There are other heritage homes in Chilliwack but the Gervan and Stonehurst are the first ones protected under the updated policy.

A detailed “statement of significance” or SOS, is required for heritage designation, and covers heritage status details, as well as conservation standards and guidelines, and character-defining elements. The SOS reports for the Gervan and Stonehurst cost about $2,000 each, and were produced by consultants Donald Luxton & Associates.

The Gervan House was built in 1911 in the Foursquare style, common to the Edwardian era. It was one of the earliest homes in the Mountain View neighbourhood

“Albert bought the house in 1954,” said Linda Phelps, about her husband’s purchase. “It’s been in the Phelps name a long time.”

She’s thrilled by the heritage designation.

“I’m all for it,” she said just before the plaque presentation. “We were pushing for it.”

The designation is a great way to “preserve the heritage and the history of a community,” Phelps said. “I hope this encourages others to come forward.”

Today the Gervan house is considered “a valuable record” of the urban and social development of the residential area, adjacent to downtown Chilliwack, in the early years of the twentieth century.

It’s known as Colonial Revival built during the Edwardian boom, while the Stonehurst on Yale Road East, was more Tudor Revival, built two years before.

The original owner of the house, Chauncey Erwin Eckert, built the Stonehurst in 1909. Eckert made his fortune in the booming lumber markets and real estate development of the time. He helped established the first local hospital and was instrumental in initiating the Mennonite settlement in Yarrow, as well as serving as Alderman from 1912-13. After Sumas Lake was drained in 1924, he saw the great potential for agriculture in the Fraser Valley and established one of the largest dairy farms.

“It’s such a cool house,” said Rob O’Brennan about Stonehurst, which he has owned with Gwyneth Jones for the past three years.

The mansion has four floors and 17 rooms, with a high gable roof and half-timbering, it reflected the opulence and the grandeur of the era.

They’ve been working on the maintenance, renovations and repairs and have only moved into the home since June. It was converted to a residence from a restaurant, known as La Mansione.

“I think it’s the style and the feel of it that’s special,” O’Brennan said. “I like the history.”

It’s not so much the plaque that’s valued, however. It’s the historical significance.

“The recognition doesn’t really mean anything,” he said, adding that it’s the second property he had designated as heritage house.

“We did it to preserve the house and its history. We knew the city wanted this one preserved as well.”

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Twitter.com/chwkjourno

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