HERITAGE MATTERS: Lyle Longstaff paints Houston House
Built in 1909 by Alexander Houston, the Houston House is important for its historic significance in terms of its association with the Houston family, its location, and the period in which it was built. It is also an important example of a community-led restoration that combined the resources of the Langley Heritage Society and Metro Vancouver.
The Houstons were an important family in British Columbia’s history. Alex’s father, James, is credited for being the first European to discover gold along the Fraser River, the first independent farmer in the Fraser Valley, one of 33 men to petition the government for an incorporation of the district, and one of the first councillors when Langley was incorporated as a District in 1873.
Alex took over the family cattle and dairy farming business in 1902 (after the death of his father). He was the only son of James and was himself an important pioneer in the Derby area. His family was very active in the community until the 1950’s, having established and hosted the community May Day celebrations and donating land for a commemorative cairn across the street from his house, marking the site of the first Fort Langley.
The farmsite stands on what was originally land occupied by the first Hudson’s Bay Company Fort (1827) and later by the Townsite of Derby (1859). It is a focal point for Derby historical interpretations and now forms part of the Derby Reach Regional Park.
The Houston farmsite reminds visitors that resource-based industries found throughout the province (mining, logging and fishing) were only some of the major forces shaping British Columbia in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The resource-based industries were comprised primarily of single men, while the small farms were comprised of families. Small-scale family farms like this one provided an economic base for the industries mentioned above, and they provided the social stability that was necessary for a growing colony.
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