W. Gillis House
Links and documents
1929/01/01 to 1936/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The W. Gillis House is a one and one-half storey, plus basement, traditional home in the historic Sullivan area of Surrey. The original site of the dwelling is being developed as a large, residential enclave which incorporates the historic home and a pedestrian walk that follows a portion of a former spur line from the former BC Electric Rail line. This spur line linked the mainline that paralleled 64 Avenue, passing diagonally through the site past the Gillis Millwork Workshop, once located just south of the house, and terminating further south near 60 Avenue, where a gravel pit was operated.
This house is valued for its association with Wes Gillis, who was active in the development of the community of Sullivan in the 1930s. Gillis purchased three one-hectare parcels at auction from the Vancouver Electric Company. Trained as a carpenter, in 1938 Gillis started a millwork and sash business that prospered during the Second World War, when millwork was difficult to obtain. Gillis ran the business until just six months before his death in 1993.
An expert builder, Gillis built many homes in the Sullivan area in the 1950s, as well as schools from Surrey to Quesnel, and the fountain at the Vancouver Court House (now the Vancouver Art Gallery). Gillis was also active in developing many community spaces and organizations in the community of Sullivan, such as Sullivan Park and Sullivan Community Hall, and served as president of the Sullivan Community Hall Association for seventeen years. He also participated in the local Air Raid Patrol, the Volunteer Fire Department, serving as fire chief for forty years, and provincially, the Volunteer Firefighters' Association of BC. For all of his many achievements, Wes Gillis received Surrey's Citizen of the Year Award in 1989.
Wes Gillis designed and built his small traditional-style home, initially a four metre by six-metre shack. In 1929, a concrete foundation was poured and the shack was moved by logs to its current location. The rear veranda and dormer were added as his financial situation allowed, and the house was finally fully completed in 1936. The house is unique in its eclectic mix of styles and design elements, such as the Tudor style front gable, the front porch with its keyhole entry and circular opening whose design came from a magazine, and the 'widow's perch', an upper floor deck over the front porch, a design feature that Gillis brought with him from his birthplace of Nova Scotia.
The W. Gillis House is also significant for its association with the development of the Sullivan neighbourhood. Two brothers, T.J. and Henry Sullivan, acquired the timber rights in this area in 1903, and the settlement of Sullivan grew up around their mill. A station on the BC Electric Railway interurban line was established here in 1910, spurring further development.
Source: Heritage Planning Files, City of Surrey
Key elements that define the heritage character of the W. Gillis House include its:
- location close to the street, in the historic core of the Sullivan community;
- form, scale and massing, as expressed in its rectangular plan with small one level projections on south and north sides;
- front porch punctured by a circular opening, with flared wall edges and a keyhole entrance at the top of the stairs;
- widow's perch: a narrow door leading from the upper hall out on to the roof deck over the front porch;
- letter "G" inset into openwork balustrade at balcony above entry;
- wide brick chimney, corbelled at the top;
- curved concrete retaining wall leading to the original one car garage in the basement; and
- proximity to the walkway on the former spur line.
Local Governments (BC)
Land Titles Act, s.219
Theme - Category and Type
Function - Category and Type
- Single Dwelling
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Heritage Planning Files, City of Surrey
Cross-Reference to Collection