Fred Pepin

Langley pioneers remember heritage buildings

Ahead of November’s Douglas Day banquet, Fred Pepin speaks to importance of preserving local history

By Jim McGregor /Special to the Langley Advance Times

This year’s Douglas Day banquet will be held at noon on Tuesday, Nov. 19 at the Langley Events Centre, and this year the committee will be recognizing Langley’s heritage buildings.

Langley Heritage Society was formed in 1979, by a group of community-minded individuals concerned with the preservation of Langley’s built and natural heritage.

Since then, Langley has become one of the fastest growing areas in British Columbia, making the work of the heritage society even more important.

One of the mandates of the society is to acquire, develop, and restore structures of historic or architectural value.

Langley pioneer Fred Pepin, has spent more than 40 years saving and restoring heritage buildings in town.

“Right now, I serve on the heritage advisory committee, but through the past 40 years I have served on the heritage society and the BC Farm Equipment Museum,” he said.

“I think it is important to preserve historical buildings and sites rather than just demolish them and waste those resources. There is always an opportunity to re-use materials and we also raise awareness and educate people about our history.”

Once a building is considered for heritage status, the history of the property is researched and the current owners are contacted.

“We have provincial guidelines we follow and staff and volunteers look at the structure and the viability for restoration,” Pepin explained.

“We have no authority to force an owner to restore their property, but we do have incentives that we offer to them. We have quite an inventory of buildings on our list now, most of them on the heritage registry.”

Langley’s heritage inventory is a list of properties that have been identified and documented for their heritage interest. The first inventory was prepared by the Langley Heritage Society in 1986 and subsequently compiled and expanded by the Township of Langley in 1993.

Resources on the inventory include a diverse range of buildings and landmarks, as well as other historic resources such as cemeteries, early transportation links, and landscape features.

There are no legal restrictions on a property as a result of being added to an inventory; however, many of these sites are now included on the Township of Langley’s community heritage register, and others have received legal protection that regulates and manages changes made to them.

Pepin has been involved in the restoration of more than 35 buildings in Langley, volunteering many hours for construction or maintenance.

“We have noticed that when we value a building with restoration, it has been an incentive to other owners in the neighbourhood to repair and paint their homes. Within a very short time we see the difference. Environmentally, restoration is the proper thing to do and it keeps building materials out of the landfill.”

The heritage society also manages 11 of the restored buildings, and in addition to maintaining his 30-acre farm in Langley and a 129-acre dairy farm in Mission, 82-year-old Pepin spends many hours maintaining these heritage buildings.

“I am so fortunate to have worked with many dedicated volunteers on these projects. The exterior of the buildings are restored as close as possible to original, but inside we put in new appliances, upgrade the plumbing and electrical, install new insulation and furnaces. Often we need new foundations or a new roof and then it all needs to be maintained.”

Pepin and other members of the heritage society are proud of their accomplishments.

“These buildings are a hundred years old and we hope, with our efforts, they will stand a hundred more,” he said.

Pepin was also a former member of the Douglas Day pioneer committee and always looks forward to the annual luncheon.

“Attending the banquet is important to reacquaint with many old friends and catch up,” he said.

The Douglas Day committee agrees that all the pioneers look forward to the event.

The majority like the noon event. Pioneers receive a full hot meal for lunch and hopefully, because it is a daytime event, many of the pioneers will be able to attend.

The formal celebration of Douglas Day began in Langley in 1946 (there were some banquets held as early as the 1920s with the Native Sons and Native Daughters acting as hosts). But since 1946, each year there has been a dinner to honour Langley’s pioneers.

The early days hosted roughly 30 pioneers, but this has since grown to more than 200.

The banquet outgrew the hall in Fort Langley and moved to the Civic Centre in 1973. Now with close to 400 in attendance, the event is held at the Langley Events Centre at 200th Street and 80th Avenue.

To be classed as a Langley pioneer, one must be 70 years of age, currently live in Langley, and have lived at least 60 of those years in Langley.

Each year some pass away, but new ones meet the criteria so the event will have life for years to come, according to organizers who encourage anyone meeting the criteria – or knowing someone who does – to contact the Douglas Day committee and get on the list by calling Township’s Sarah Regehr at 604-533-6148.

Tickets for the event are available at the Township of Langley Civic Facility, the community centres, and the Langley Centennial Museum.

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