When John Stewart built his Queen Anne Revival farmhouse in South Surrey in 1894, it’s safe to say he’d never imagined his family home would become a popular heritage attraction 100 years later. But that’s exactly what happened.
Imagine a place where the hustle-bustle of city life seems to magically melt away. Where is this extraordinary spot? You may have driven past it on your way to Crescent Beach without even knowing…
Sitting like an antique jewel on the banks of the Nicomekl River, the Historic Stewart Farm is as close as you can get to experiencing the life of Surrey’s pioneers in 1894-1910. Listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places, this is the only completely intact farm unit from the late 19th century remaining in Surrey. And it’s no ordinary farmhouse, either. Few heritage homes of this age in the Lower Mainland boast such elaborate architectural details as the Stewart farmhouse.
As you approach the meticulously restored structure, with its turned finials at the gable peaks and charming wraparound veranda, it’s easy to forget you’re in the 21st century. Open the front door and you’ll soon be greeted by a guide in Victorian costume, eager to provide a tour and share stories of the Stewart family. If you’re more of a solo time traveller, you can also explore the house and site on your own.
Passing through the elegantly appointed rooms, it’s easy to imagine that a Stewart family member has only stepped out for a moment. The aroma of oatmeal cookies baking in the woodstove will lure you into the kitchen, where seasonal back-to-basics cooking classes are held, and groups can enjoy prebooked teas.
Climb up the creaking wooden staircase to explore the children’s bedrooms, where simple toys unimaginable to today’s kids sit as if their young owners just placed them down. Then on for a peek into John and Annie Stewart’s bedroom with its warm fir floors, lace curtains, ornate bed and sewing nook…
A visit to the Historic Stewart Farm isn’t complete without heading outdoors to explore the surrounding park with its expansive lawns, field and mountain vistas, heritage gardens and outbuildings. For a glimpse of what an un-plugged life would taste like, set the kids free to run on the lawn, play tag in the orchard and huge pole barn, and take a turn at the old-time water pump. Guides love to point out the fact that there were no smart devices, television, flushing toilets or running water when this house was built. Young visitors often react with disbelief, followed by “I wish I could live here…”
Do you want to immerse yourself in 19th century Surrey settler life or take in a tea, special event or program? Maybe you’re just looking for a great spot to enjoy a picnic or a scenic walk. Either way, the Historic Stewart Farm delivers. Most days there are crafts and a dress up station upstairs. The grounds are open every day, even if the farmhouse is not. Remember to wear appropriate footwear on rainy days and expect to spend at least an hour on site… even though you might wish you could stay forever. As one young farm volunteer so eloquently expressed, “Being at the Historic Stewart Farm is like being plunged into a different world where everything inspires curiosity and wonder.”