Mysterious show of crocuses at the abandoned house of 219 E.Columbia
A local New Westminster phenomenon sparked a very ghostly conversation in the community group Share New West. There is something eerie and heart warming about watching the lawn of this unoccupied home spring to life. Every year the crocuses have been appearing as far back as any local residents can remember. It leaves one wondering who planted all those crocuses and did they ever suspect they would bring so much mystery and joy to the lives of the future? There is very little known about the providence of residence at 219 E.Columbia. It is on the list of historical sites in the New Westminster registry.
A local historian Dale Miller co-founder of A Sense of History had some very interesting comments.
“This house is one of the “puzzlement’s” in the City and we don’t have a definite answer.”
Dale goes on further to say “In 2008, the City put together a list of the “oldest houses in the City”, i.e., those built before 1890, and that list was the basis of an article in the local New West Paper the Newsleader now know as the Record. The list refers to 219 E Columbia as having been built in 1877 by and for Paul & Lucy Murray who moved here from Langley. The City website confirms the story and states that the house is on the Heritage Inventory.
However, the Heritage Inventory describes the house as the J. Ankers’ House, built circa 1909. City directories confirm that John Ankers moved into the house in 1908 or 1909 and lived there for many years. In fact, the directories have no mention whatsoever of a Paul Murray – at that address or anywhere else in the City between 1877 and 1908. Nor does the address exist in the directories before 1908.”
Historical Title Search?
Dale points out the City should have a historical title search done “At this point, we cannot explain where the 1877 Murray information came from. It seems to us that the only way to be sure of which story is correct is for someone (the City?) to do an Historical Title Search at the Land Titles Office. We recommended that they do that in 2011, but have no idea if that happened. Love to have it clarified – we get this question every spring when the crocuses put on their annual display.”
What struck me most about this house, and perhaps any building or house in the community, is the way that the members of our community views these as part of the city fabric of the structured environment. Many in the group shared photos of the crocuses they had snapped as they passed by and many had personal stories of the floral landmark.
In a way I feel it’s unfair to burden private land owners with the weight of heritage protection. But our municipalities simply do not have the funds to protect each deserving historic commodity. What will be come of this charming old site? Does protection and restoration belong to the current owner? Should the city step in and see the spring crocus display is saved along with the aging residence? Or will this site too befall the same fate as the historic gas works building? If you have passed by 219 E.Columbia at any other time of year other than early spring you may not have realized just how special this unique piece of our heritage is.