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Historic Hope Station House gets chance at second life after long fight

Council agrees to letter of intent to partner with Tashme Historical Society
People walked through Hope to the Hope Station House on Sept. 18 to protest the plan to demolish the historic building. (Barry Stewart file photo)

The Hope Station House is one step closer to being saved.

Ryan Ellan, manager of the Sunshine Valley Tashme Museum, ran a proposal by council at Monday night’s meeting that they agreed with. The proposal includes potential funding, a governance model, timelines for moving and operations, and more.

Ellan and Laura Saimoto put the proposal together over the past three weeks, separate from the coalition but with their input and support, Ellan told The Standard.

He said the Tashme Museum stepped in about a month and a half ago, believing the Tashme Historical Society’s track record and relationships with the provincial government and other historical organizations gave them a chance to succeed where the fledgling coalition could not.

The proposal would see the society purchase the Station House and relocate it to Water Avenue where it would be rehabilitated. The District of Hope approved a 10-year lease agreement for the building, which would house AdvantageHope, a museum and a combination of businesses. One of the proposed businesses is an e-bike rental shop.

“It’s been a whirlwind three weeks,” Ellan said with a chuckle. “We reached out to our connections and gathered around 62 support letters, including from the Canadian National Museum in Ottawa, the National Trust of Canada and Fraser Valley Regional District. And we are very humbled to have the Chawathil First Nations support.”

Nearly $1.4 million in potential funding has been identified that would not only save the Hope Station House, but get it operating as a viable tourist attraction.

“A huge amount of credit goes to the Coalition for the Preservation of the Hope Station House,” Ellan said. “They have been just relentless, investing an amazing amount of energy over the last year trying to save that building.”

While the proposal is finely detailed and includes many ideas for the building’s future, there is a note that it is a rough proposal of governance that will evolve with more discussion.

“[It] tells the shared story of built and cultural heritage of B.C.’s evolution; repurposes space for functional and sustainable community use to become the ‘Gateway to our stories, old and new’ as a major heritage tourist and community hub,” the proposal says.

One of the objectives is to “tell the balanced story of B.C.’s shared history, integrating colonial settler history with Japanese Canadian, Chinese Canadian, First Nations legacies.”

“It’s a very special building to the Tashme Historical Society and the Japanese-Canadian community, because it is the only building in Hope that has direct history with the Japanese internment during the Second World War,” Ellan said. “Over 8,000 Japanese-Canadians stepped off trains at the Station House and were either transferred to Tashme or shipped out to other internment sites across B.C.”

The proposal is intended to ensure long-term structural, operational and financial sustainability, but Monday night’s nod to the plan is only the first of many steps that need to be taken to see the plan to fruition. The District is providing a ‘letter of intent’ that will be part of a BC 150 Time Immemorial grant application. The station house is eligible for up to $500,000 in funding.

The grant is due Dec. 24, 2021.

Ellan said it’s far from a slam dunk that their application is approved. If it is approved, it may not be for the full $500,000 and they expect to find out in mid-February.

“We are working as hard as we can on that grant application behind the scenes right now, and we are looking at this project as a series of hurdles in front of us that we will tackle one at a time,” Ellan said. “But the District of Hope has shown a huge amount of faith in the Tashme Historical Society.

“They want to save that building and they proved that.”

Councillors Craig Traun and Victor Smith voted against the motion for the letter of intent. Smith said he doesn’t support it because it strays from the Facilities Master Plan, and is too last minute. Traun said he had more questions that would take some time to answer.

Coun. Heather Stewin said she was reminded that council is there to serve the district, and she sees overwhelming support to save the building.

“I’m terrified but I’m willing,” she said with a laugh.

“This plan is the best we’ve seen,” said Coun. Scott Medlock. “If decisions aren’t made, nothing happens. This is the right thing to do to give this building a chance at some life.”

Coun. Dusty Smith also spoke strongly in favour of the proposal.

“If we can make something great happen in this town, which I think Ryan and his team cam do, I think we should,” he said.

Mayor Peter Robb did not vote on the matter, and Coun. Bob Erickson did not participate in the meeting.

READ MORE: Council removes heritage status of Hope Station House


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