Nestled at the base of Sumas Mountain in the Fraser River Valley is a charming spot called Clayburn Village, the first company town in British Columbia. In 1905, the Maclure family built a plant to produce bricks of fireclay taken from the nearby mountainside. The village was created by the Maclures to provide homes and services for the men employed in the Clayburn Company plant. Of the thirty-five original buildings in the village, nineteen remain intact. Two of them are on the Federal Register of Historic Places in Canada. Many have been lovingly cared for and restored.
The Brickworks Manager’s House
Built around 1906, this is one of the earliest houses of the village and Clayburn Company owner, Charles Maclure, lived here until 1909. Like a number of the other houses, this was designed by Charles’ brother, the well-known architect Samuel Maclure. If you would like to experience living in Clayburn Village for a day or two, you could stay in this house which is now a bed and breakfast.
The Accountant’s House
This lovely house was designed by Samuel Maclure and is the second largest in the village, reflecting the important position the accountant held in the Clayburn Company. Samuel Maclure is known for his Tudor Revival house designs. He was influenced by the Arts and Crafts style of architecture. He completed over 450 commissions in his career and designed many beautiful and important buildings in British Columbia, possibly the most impressive being Hatley Castle in Victoria.
The Foremen’s Cottages
Five foremen’s cottages were built directly across the road from the brickworks in 1906 to 1908. They seem very small compared to today’s houses. At the height of production, the brickworks employed up to 180 men and had become the largest producer of bricks in the province of British Columbia. Clayburn bricks were shipped to such distant locations as Hawaii and Mexico.
Clinker Brick Cottages
I was fascinated by these cottages of strange, lumpy and mishapen bricks. It turns out that there are two houses in Clayburn Village made from these clinker bricks. The odd shapes were caused by overheating in the factory kilns, Although the clinker bricks were rejected by the Clayburn Company factory, they actually became popular in other parts of the world during the first decade of the 1900’s and were used for architectural detailing.
The Green House
Six of these lovely Victorian houses were built in Clayburn Village. They were made of wood on a brick foundation and painted pale green, which is how they became known as the green houses. This was the last one built, completed in 1911. It is situated directly behind the general store.
Clayburn School was built in 1907 as a one-room schoolhouse, but in 1925 a basement was added to double the classroom space. It operated as a public school until 1983. As well, it was an important gathering place where the villagers could attend concerts, plays, Saturday night dances and other social events. The Clayburn Village Community Society purchased the schoolhouse in 1991 and started restoration work on it in 2000. A museum in the basement is open on Saturday afternoons in the summer by donation.
The village church was built in 1912 from bricks donated by the Clayburn Company, and was home to a Presbyterian congregation until 1958. It was an important part of the life of the village and is still a sought-after location for weddings. The cornerstone brick was laid by Margaret Cooper, the first bride to walk down the aisle. The Clayburn Village Community Society bought it in 1969 and it was restored in 1978.
Clayburn Village General Store
You have never seen so many kinds of penny candy – jars and jars, including some you’ve only read about in books. You can browse the specialty foods or have a light meal at one of the tables by the pot-bellied stove. If the weather is pleasant, you could sit outside in the trellis garden and enjoy tea and scones. The store was built in 1912 and belonged to the original owners until 1972. Recently it has been restored and serves as a wonderful reminder of life one hundred years ago.
Bricks from Clayburn were highly valued by architects for their color and quality. They were used in such buildings as St. Paul’s Hospital and the Vancouver’s World Building. But times changed. By the end of the 1920’s, the brickworks’ production had been merged with their plant in Kilgard, so by 1931 the Clayburn site was no longer in use. Residents of Clayburn Village were paid half a cent for each reusable brick they could salvage. Before long, there was nothing left of the factory but its foundations. The remains of the brickwork plant can still be seen at the undeveloped historic site on the north side of Clayburn Road.