Clayburn Village was the first company town to be established in British Columbia. The settlement dates from 1905, when the Vancouver Fireclay Company – later to become the Clayburn Company – built a brick-making plant just to the west of Sumas Mountain, convenient to deposits of high-grade fireclay in the Straiton area on the southwest slopes of the mountain. A small townsite was laid out to the south of the brick plant where the company built homes for its managers and workers. The brick-faced houses of Clayburn Village, built between 1906 and 1909, are of special historical and architectural importance for a number of reasons:
- They are believed to have been designed by the renowned British Columbia architect, Samuel Maclure;
- Mr. Maclure’s conception of the physical form of the village and the design of the houses and their visual relationship to Sumas Mountain are a noted example of the City Beautiful Movement that became important in North America following the World Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893;
- They represent one of the largest concentrations of brick buildings of the first decade of the twentieth century in the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley;
- As a group, they reflect a unity of design in the use of brickwork, shingles, woodwork, and windows; and
- The exterior use of brick in their foundations and first-storey walls was unique in British Columbia.
There are other buildings in the village that are of historical importance. The village’s wooden school house was built in 1908 on the west side of Wright Street. A Presbyterian church was constructed in 1912 opposite the school house with bricks donated by the Clayburn Company. These buildings were officially designated heritage structures by the former District of Matsqui in 1978. They are now owned by the Clayburn Village Community Society and are used for community activities and events. In 1912, a two-storey general store was opened on the corner of Wright Street and Clayburn Road and soon became the village’s social focal point. In recent years, the store has been renovated and restocked, as much as possible to represent the commerce and lifestyle of the early decades of the twentieth century. It serves as a convenient meeting place for village residents and attracts visitors from all over the Province. The general store is also used as a convenient starting point for those who wish to tour the village and enjoy its atmosphere, stroll its streets, and view its buildings of architectural note.
Finally, the Clayburn Brick Plant site is important to both Clayburn Village and British Columbia. By 1909 the plant was the largest brick producer in the Province, and the claim was made that it was the largest in Canada. Such was the originality and quality of Clayburn bricks – in particular, distinctively coloured specialty bricks that architects ordered for some of the most distinguished buildings in British Columbia, including the World Building (1911), St. Paul’s Hospital (1912), the second Hotel Vancouver (1913, demolished in 1948), and the Marine Building (1929-30) all of Vancouver, and the Empress Hotel (1904-08) and Armouries (1914) of Victoria. The plant lay unused after 1930 when production operations were merged with the brick plant in Kilgard. By 1940, most of the brick plant buildings had disappeared. In 1993, the District of Matsqui purchased this property with a view towards the eventual excavation of the old kilns and brick plant site, and establishing an interpretative centre on it.
For more information visit The Clayburn Village website