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South Westminster School

12469 104 Avenue, Surrey, British Columbia, V3V, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2000/12/04

Exterior view of South Westminster School, 2007; City of Surrey, 2007
Front elevation
Historic view of South Westminster School, 1914; City of Surrey, 2007
Oblique view from southwest corner
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Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2009/02/26

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

South Westminster School is a one-storey school house situated on a prominent rise along 104 Avenue in the South Westminster neighbourhood of Surrey. The School is immediately adjacent to the former B.C. Electric Railway right-of-way.

Heritage Value

Opened in 1914 as a two-room school house, South Westminster School is significant as an early surviving school in Surrey, and demonstrates the growth and development of the community and the value that was placed on public education. The South Westminster School played a vital role in the life of local children until its closure in 1982. The student population included Grades 1 through 8, and during the 1920s and 1930s, the school expanded to fill three buildings on this site.

The school is further valued for its association with the development of the South Westminster neighbourhood, established in the 1870's as Brownsville, across the Fraser River from New Westminster. The community was located at the convergence of the Yale Wagon Road and Semiahmoo Trail, and was also the site of the first commercial fish cannery on the B.C. coast. The first rail bridge across the river was built in 1904; it was utilized by the New Westminster Southern Railway, the Great Northern Railway, the B.C. Electric Railway and the Canadian Northern Railway. In 1910, the BCER established a passenger station at South Westminster, which was already an established community and a transportation hub. The station spurred further local growth, as evidenced by the construction of this large, modern school in 1914.

South Westminster School is also valued as a significant example of the architectural work of the provincial Department of Public of Works (DPW), which, beginning in the 1880s, assisted school districts through the development of standardized building plans. The design of the South Westminster School demonstrates the provincial standards determined by the Department of Education, as reflected in the symmetrical rectangular plan, with a wide central hallway and banks of fenestration that allowed abundant natural light into the classrooms. The plan was modular and could be doubled in size to four class rooms if required. By the time this school was designed, Henry Whittaker (1886-1971) had just been hired by the DPW. Whittaker prepared the plans for this school, which demonstrate the new direction his work was charting for the DPW. During his thirty-year tenure with the Department, Whittaker was responsible for the design and supervision of hundreds of buildings and his work had a profound influence on the style and appearance of the province's public buildings.

Source: City of Surrey Planning Department

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements that define the heritage character of the South Westminster School include its:
- location adjacent to single family residential dwellings and the former B.C. Electric Railway right-of-way
- institutional form, scale and massing as expressed by its one-storey height, full-height basement, symmetrical rectangular plan, central front entry and gable-on-hip roof with parallel twin front-gabled projections
- wood-frame construction, with original wooden drop siding without corner boards, and shingle siding in the front gables
- masonry elements, such as the rubble-stone foundation with tuck pointing, and an internal red-brick chimney
- Arts and Crafts elements, such as prominent open gables, open eaves, and half-timbering in the front porch gable
- windows, including original window openings, and banked symmetrical double-hung wooden sash windows at the rear with original trim
- original interior features, such as wooden wainscoting, wooden trim, lath-and-plaster walls, internal staircase and original room configuration including a wide central hallway
- associated landscape features, such as grassed schoolyard in the rear and perimeter plantings



British Columbia

Recognition Authority

Local Governments (BC)

Recognition Statute

Local Government Act, s.954

Recognition Type

Community Heritage Register

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Building Social and Community Life
Education and Social Well-Being

Function - Category and Type



Primary or Secondary School

Architect / Designer

Henry Whittaker



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

City of Surrey Planning Department

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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