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Crescent Beach

Contributions of information and photos by Jack Berry

During the Ice Age, ice covered the Lower Mainland from 200,000 to 20,000 years ago. As the ice retreated great piles of moraine (sand, gravel and boulders) remained. These are now the uplands of Surrey. Where these highlands met the ocean, erosion took place. The material eroded formed spits and sand bars. Crescent Beach (formerly Blackie's Spit) is the result of such natural erosion. The action of the waves, wind, and tides washes beach gravel northward. The Crescent Beach Development Company built groynes on the beach to limit the wave action and build up the sedimentary deposits. As a result the Point at the end of Sullivan Street has extended itself fifty feet or more. The Bay is filling in. Sand bars out in front of Crescent, which are visible at low tide, have extended another half mile, all in 90+ years. The river channel in that length of time has been dredged numerous times to keep it navigable.

Walter Blackie, for whom Blackie's Spit is named, was the first white occupant of Crescent Beach. He was New Westminster's first blacksmith. He had paid $50 to Royal Engineer J.B Musselwhite on February 14, 1871 for 150 acres of Crescent Beach. Blackie's home was built toward the base of the spit near where the Burlington Northern Railway approaches Crescent Beach from the south. The land was left to Blackie's nephew's widow, who in turn sold it to Charles Beecher on August 11, 1906. The George Gordon family had lived in the log house built by Walter Blackie. (See the Gordon Family) In the early 1900s visitors could find board and lodging with the Gordons, or use their yard as tenting space.

In the early 1900's most of the settlement was on top of the bluff as Crescent proper was subject to flooding when high winds and high tides swept freely across the curve of beach land. The spit itself was composed largely of gravel. In 1901 a lodge was built on the hill above Crescent Beach and registered to Captain Watkin Williams. This lodge was located on what is now the corner of Stevenson Road(128th Street) and Crescent Road. It was used for housing hunters, eastern tourists, and later the local school teacher. (See Crescent Hotel and Lodge)

The coming of the Great Northern Railroad in 1909 made the beach easily accessible to the public, and it was not long before a real estate company - the Crescent Beach Development Company - was formed to subdivide the spit. The original members of the Crescent Beach Development Company were; F. J. Hart & Co. Ltd., Henry Alfred Eastman, James R. Agar, and Claude S. Hill. Construction began on beach groins to hold the beach in place and to build up the beach berm. By 1911 the first waterfront lots were put up for sale and the first buildings constructed. Early Surrey Municipal maps show O'Hara Lane with lots on either side. It is logical to assume that other portions of the spit were under water at high tide, and it was not until permanent dikes were erected in 1913 that other lots on McBride, McKenzie and Gordon could be sold.

Crescent Beach Scrines 1958 Crescent prominade

Beach groins held the beach in place and help build the beach berm. Most of the early homes were built along the berm as the areas behind the beach were subject to flooding at high tide. The beach promenade is shown looking south towards the hotel's pier.

The area was named Blackie's Spit after Walter Blackie. The ladies of the community could not see this vulgar name on a railway station. It reminded them of the cuspidors commonly in use in those days. It is said that an eminent politician coming in by sea remarked that the spit looked like a crescent and so the name stuck. It was later changed to Crescent Beach on the request of a local postmaster because mail was being misdirected to other post offices with similar names. Blackie's Spit was relegated to Crab Man's Island - which is no longer an island as dredged material has been pumped into the slough between the island and the dyke.

1912 was considered the boom year for Crescent Beach. This was due to local construction and promotion of the resort by the Crescent Beach Development Company. In addition to a boat house and twelve homes, the Crescent Hotel, and a pier were constructed. The dikes at the back of the beach along the Nicomekl were gradually improved, and more lots were staked and homes built. Over the years several stores were built. Camp Alexandra was established in 1918 by the Alexandra Orphanage of Vancouver as a summer retreat for disadvantaged youth. Large numbers of children would arrive by train for their week at the summer camp.

Camp Alexandra children

Children, their mothers or their chaperons would arrive at Crescent Station and walk to Camp Alexandra. Here is a large group waiting for the train to take them back home after their summer holiday.

Crescent Beach Hotel

The Crescent Beach Hotel and its associated wharf, was the center for summer activities in Crescent Beach. It was located on the present site of Beecher Place, the current public washrooms, police office, and meeting hall at the foot of Beecher Street.

Crescent Beach Station 1928

The Crescent Station in 1909 was a simple shelter. However, with the development of the beach community it warranted a full station.

Even the Crescent Beach Hotel was closed every winter, with 1919-20 being the first winter it was kept open. However, a large enough permanent population existed to warrant the opening of a school in 1912. The first one room school was located on the South East corner of Tullock Road and Crescent Roads(the present 28th Ave. and 126th Street).

The first Crescent School

The first one room school was located on the South East corner of Tullock Road and Crescent Roads (the present 28th Ave. and 126th Street).

In 1918 Crescent Park School was opened. This is the current Crescent Annex at 124th and 24th. The present Crescent Park Elementary (128th St. and 24th Ave.) opened in 1948.

Crescent School 1925

This was the class of 1925 at Crescent Park School located at Ocean Park Road and Sunnyside Road (124th Street and 24th Ave.) The teacher was Miss Smith.

The Bannerman shingle mill which operated from 1914 until 1923 further added to the number of winter residents. With no further milling operations after 1923, and employment in any phase of the forest industry coming to an end, Crescent Beach's permanent population declined markedly. This decline continued until in 1932-33 Crescent Park School was forced to close due to lack of students.

Crescent Beach was then primarily a summer resort. Families would arrive by train in the summer, but return to the city as soon as school began in the fall.

View along the beach

Crescent Beach was largely built along the beach berm spreading out from Beecher Street. Here the Hotel is flanked by summer cottages.

Ivy Lodge at the south end of the beach

This view is of Ivy Lodge at the south end of the beach looking south towards the point.

Crescent in the 1920s

Crescent Beach was primarily a summer resort. In the 1920's People could access Crescent via the Great Northern Railway. The sun, sand and swimming lessons provided by the Swimming Association drew many summer visitors. Blackie's spit is seen in the background.

The summer resident influx never failed despite local economic conditions. 1929 in particular saw a number of improvements. Captain Cates remodeled the Hotel and gave it an improved appearance and functionality. A new water main brought a year round supply of safe water. Electricity came to the beach and a new era began. Surrey completed a new Crescent Road access to the beach by cutting the hill and filling the ravine. The improvement in roads generally, and Crescent Road in particular, permitted road traffic to bring even greater numbers of summer tourists.

The Crescent Beach Hotel burned down in January of 1949 and was not rebuilt. The lot remained empty until Surrey built Beecher Place in 1982.

In the 1920's and 30's the business community was built along Beecher Street in the vicinity of the Hotel.

Map of Crescent Stores

Crescent in 1930
Hotel and gas station Gardiner's store

2 - The Hotel Home gas station was located across O'Hara lane from the hotel. Dick McBride, Mr. Amer, and finally Pop Taylor operated the general store next to the gas station. This is the present day site of the empty lot east of the Red Baron.

3 - The Red Roof Store, Adams and Adams Store, and George Gardiner's store were the same building in the same location operated by different owners over the years. In later years it was made into a Red & White Store.

The Red Roof Store Adams and Adams Store

George Gardiner's Store

3 - The Red Roof Store was across Beecher Street from the Hotel. The original Red Roof Store contained a general store, a soda fountain and a snack bar. This picture was taken around 1918. The store was taken over by Adams and Adams This second picture was taken around 1925. George Gardiner became the proprietor. This third picture was taken around 1955. The white panel Ford out front belonged to Jack Berry.

Fowler's Store

4 - is Fowler's Tea Room. It was a tea room, a general store and had one gas pump. This is the present site of Crescent Bistro.

Boat House 1926

5 - is the Boat House. It was operated by the Triggs family at the foot of Sullivan Street. The depth of the water aided the launching of small boats. This is the site of the life guard tower.

Today the Crescent's community resident population increases significantly in the summer time, and to this must be added the summer day-trip beach-goer. Currently Crescent Beach has developed as a year-round residential community.

Erosion of Crescent Beach

The following pictures were taken over the years by Jack Berry. Jack provided this write up to explain them.

The following pictures are graphic examples of early beach erosion, which still takes place every year, much to the consternation of property owners, and the city's works department. These snaps were taken by John Berry of Mrs. Berry and a friend, Vera Whittaker, on a lunch break from the Crescent Hotel complex. The two views are those of the south end of the boulevard as it terminated in front of ex Mayor Gale's summer cottage. His lawn, garden and rockeries were something to behold. Most summer residents just let their grass grow till it was knee high then cut it with a scythe.

1929 strone breakwater 1929 strone breakwater

In front of the rockeries were a wide boulevard and a stone breakwater constructed by Gale's hired man. When this picture was taken the breakwater was one year old. The previous winter storms had already washed the mortar out from between the rocks. The steps had to be repaired. One year later, the storms completely obliterated the breakwater and boulevard.

Crescent Beach 1949

Twenty years later 1949, nothing remains. The two leaning trees also fell victims to winter storms.

These pictures, taken Feb. 2004, are of the recent foreshore improvements by the City of Surrey.

Crescent Beach 2004 Crescent Beach 2004

The picture on the left is of the Beach. The one on the right is looking back at the location of the old rockeries.

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