British Columbia

Historic hall in Mission, B.C., burns weeks after reopening

A historic country hall in Silverhill — a small enclave of rural homes in Mission, B.C. — burned overnight, leaving those who had just refurbished the community hub saddened.

'A lot of people around here have very strong emotional ties to [the hall]' says hall association president

A fire destroyed the Silverhill Hall in Mission, B.C., Thursday night. (Amber Roy)

A historic community hall in a rural area of Mission, B.C., was destroyed by fire late Thursday night, devastating volunteers who worked for years to rejuvenate the structure built by Swedish settlers in 1919.

The almost century-old Silverhill Community Hall stood near the border of Maple Ridge, about eight kilometres west of the town of Mission. 

Many of the people who live near the hall are descendants of the settlers who originally built the rustic structure, according to the president of the Silverhill Hall Association.

"This is a huge loss," said Amber Roy, association president.

Roy said she got a call Thursday night at 11:39 p.m. PT from a neighbour who saw flames.

Mission Fire Chief Dale Unrau says the Silverhill Hall is most likely a 'total loss.' (Amber Roy)

"It was on fire and we got there as quick as we could and it was completely engulfed in flames," said Roy.

"It's very emotional for a lot of us," she said.

Sillverhill Hall had fallen into disrepair, but a dedicated group of volunteers recently worked to restore it and had been bringing the venue back to life with new community events.

"A lot of people around here have very strong emotional ties to [the hall]," Roy said, describing decades of weddings, feasts and funerals held inside.

A historic hall built by Swedish settlers in 1919 burned on Oct. 11. This image shows the hall before the fire damage. (Silverhill hall/facebook)

Fire officials say there's nothing suspicious about the fire.

"It will be a substantial loss and will likely be a total loss. There's just an exterior shell of the building left," Mission Fire Chief Dale Unrau said Friday morning in a phone interview.

He said firefighters were delayed 40 minutes, unable to douse flames until power lines were deactivated. There are also no fire hydrants in the area.

The hall was almost lost before firefighters were able to get to it, he added.

A group of unidentified volunteers celebrate the renewed Silverhill Community Hall. (Silverhill Hall Association/Facebook)

A group of people were inside the hall yesterday putting up Halloween decorations. They locked up around 6 p.m., said Roy.

More than 500 people attended the first event after the rebuild, which was a culture and community festival on Sept. 30.

A tearful Roy said Friday that only two walls of the beloved community hub remain, and she's not sure if those walls can be salvaged.

Silverhill Hall was built out of hand-hewn logs from the nearby Ruskin Mill and erected in 1919 by Swedish immigrants who settled on the hill on land donated by Siver Lowe.

A historic hall burned Thursday night after volunteers spent months refurbishing it. (Silverhill Hall Association/Facebook)
Silverhill Community Hall was becoming a renewed social hub for the community, used for craft fairs and celebrations. (Silverhill Community Association/Facebook)

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Yvette Brend is a Vancouver journalist. or on Twitter or Instagram @ybrend