The International Committee on the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage (ICOMOS) defines vernacular heritage as:
The built vernacular heritage is important; it is the fundamental expression of the culture of a community, of its relationship with its territory and, at the same time, the expression of the world’s cultural diversity. Vernacular building is the traditional and natural way by which communities house themselves.
Typically finding its inspiration in non-academic traditions, vernacular heritage is anchored to place and reflective of the lives, activities and industries of the people. Built with available materials, local building techniques, and available craftsmen, the utilitarian and domestic structures represent, as British architectural historian Ronald William Brunskill expressed, “design and building with thought and feeling.
With building materials ranging from wood to mud and stone, and with a broad range of architectural styles and functions, vernacular heritage is often characterized as much by its diversity as its adaptability and sustainability. The buildings inform us of past skills and traditions that can suggest an innate knowledge and appreciation of materials and techniques.
Rooted in land and time, vernacular heritage can attest to the coexistence of human and nature.
Challenges facing vernacular heritage:
This home is known as Maple Grove Farm, Turner House or Cruikshank Residence. Originally sited at 33786 Clayburn Road, Abbotsford, BC., the house and associated barn were built on the Clayburn ridge, just outside Clayburn Village.
The home and farm were built by George Turner c. 1875, possibly choosing the site as the highest point on a prairie that tends to flood annually. He surveyed a road to run from his home to the steamboat landing on the Fraser River. This is now Riverside Road/Street.
Turner House is a small attic storeyed timber framed board and batten cottage, built by Royal Engineer George Turner in the 1870s. Constructed c. 1875, the House is significant as the only surviving house from the first phase of European settlement on Matsqui Prairie. Despite its age, the home retains a high degree of original integrity and is valuable as an example of Craftsman-style architecture.
A precise date of the building’s construction can be established as a result of several mentions of it in the Alben Hawkins diaries (CA BCA MS-0441). The property’s association with George Turner, a surveyor with the Columbia attachment of the Royal Engineers (1858-63), and one of the area’s earliest European settlers, gives the structure historic significance. Turner, who was an important early surveyor in his own right, and whose work is closely associated with the early development of the Abbotsford area, was granted this land as part of his 160-acre lot for service with the Royal Engineers in April of 1870.
The location of the house is historically significant in that it reflects the pioneers’ sensible choice of high land free from the threat of floods known to engulf the prairie, and because Mr. Turner himself surveyed one of Abbotsford’s main arteries to run from the steamboat landing to this property.
The building is highly representative of a very early farming property, and between 1886 and 1888, the farm was indeed the home of Maple Grove Dairy Co., one of the area’s first cooperatively run farms, owned by some of the community’s pioneers, including the Downes and Sims families. Further significance is gained by the property’s association with Alex Cruikshank, who was instrumental in the early development of Matsqui, and his son George, who served as a reeve of Matsqui and as a Liberal MP.
To enter the house, hazmat equipment was required due to its close proximity to a new operating packing facility. The barn and farm machinery had been demolished to make way for the packing facility.
While much of the heritage value is tied to its location, the encroachment of industry required the house to be moved if it was to be preserved. Turner House, which had overlooked Matsqui Prairie for 143 years, was relocated in July 2018 to Clayburn Park, two kilometres to the east. It is intended to be the centrepiece on an improved public space.
By moving Turner House, the City of Abbotsford has indicated a degree of interest in the house’s significance. However, the house is not on a heritage register and, as of July 2018, a heritage professional has not been consulted to develop a heritage conservation plan.
Good intention, but ill-informed action can result in irreversible damage to the historic fabric. Without adequate planning, Turner House was left on blocks following the recent relocation. A heritage property management plan has not been developed to determine the future use and maintenance of the house.