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Milestone for Delta Museum building

Built as home for municipal government, Delta Street structure turns 100 this year

For over four decades the Delta Museum building in Ladner has been both an important heritage feature as well as the centre for historical preservation and display.

It turns 100 years old this year.

In 1912, the same year the Westham Island Bridge was completed, an attractive building was constructed on Delta Street, the commercial hub of the municipality.

Half brick and half timber, the multi-gabled building was intended to be an imposing structure that reflected the wealth of the municipality, no less than the T.E. Ladner or Burr homes reflected the wealth of their owners.

While the municipal government was the chief tenant of the new building, it was by no means the only one. The municipal offices were on the main floor, the police and morgue in the basement and the school board housed upstairs.

For a time, Percy Smith, the building's caretaker and municipal clerk, lived in an apartment on the uppermost floor. An annex was later added to the rear of the building, housing the council meeting rooms.

Former reeve Clarence Taylor said he regretted the building was not built at Memorial Park, which he thought would have been a more ideal location.

Late longtime columnist Edgar Dunning wrote that when he started working for the Optimist in the 1930s, local politicians often enjoyed a few drinks at a pool hall down the road from municipal hall prior to their regular Saturday afternoon meetings. He quipped those meetings inevitably became lively affairs.

The building that housed the pool hall, by the way, is also still standing.

Following the completion of the George Massey Tunnel in 1959, Delta experienced huge growth. The need for a newer, more spacious municipal building became increasingly apparent and in 1968 the Corporation of Delta opened one in what's now the civic precinct.

Discussions about establishing a museum in Delta began in 1958, although nothing much was done about it for almost a decade. However, with news of the municipality's intention to vacate the Delta Street building, the efforts of the Delta Historical and Museum Society became focused on taking over the old municipal hall.

On Nov. 10, 1969, the Delta Historical Museum was officially opened by then premier W.A.C. Bennett.

Dunning, the society's first president, greeted the premier, telling him of Delta's history. The occasion was part of a much bigger celebration of Delta's 90th anniversary of incorporation.

The premier, who also received a Freedom of the Municipality honour from then mayor Dugald Morrison, clanged an old locomotive bell signaling the opening of the museum that day.

The archives opened 10 years later.

The museum still operates in the same building. A small satellite location to house additional displays and programs opened down the block a few years ago.

sgyarmati@delta-optimist.com