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William T. Rolfe & his Craftsman House

posted by: The Royal Hotel Chilliwack on: December 22, 2019 07:10:05 PM

Before the advent of specialty retailers and self-serve department stores, shop keepers were general merchants offering a wide variety of goods, including groceries, clothing, housewares and farm supplies.

Offering a one-stop destination, these early retailers were an important part of daily life; providing a source of goods necessary to settlers.

Interior of a typical 1909 dry goods store.

Born and educated in Ontario, William T. Rolfe came to Chilliwack around 1907 and in 1909 he established a dry goods store on Wellington Avenue, specializing in ladies’ dry goods.  The building was constructed for the previous owner, William Rose, who operated his dry goods store in that location for a few years prior to Mr. Rolfe taking over the space.

Opening was delayed due to ice on the Fraser River
Chilliwack Progress, Jan. 20, 1909

Mr. Rolfe felt that by focusing on only ladies items would give him an advantage by offering “better value and better choices, a more select line of dress goods and by giving it all his undivided attention.” (Chilliwack Progress, March 23, 1910)
Rolfe’s business was so successful that he found it necessary to expand his retail space just a few years later in 1911.

Chilliwack Progress, March 22, 1911

Chilliwack Progress, Dec. 4, 1919

Sometime between 1910 and 1915 W.T. Rolfe purchased a residential lot on Wellington Avenue,near the corner of Corbould Street and just down the street from his business. The lot required the clearing of trees and timber before he engaged C.E. Woodruff, local contractor and building inspector to build their home in 1921.

Rolfe House
photo credit: City of Chilliwack

The Rolfe House is the latest heritage property to be added to the roster of designated homes in Chilliwack.

The following description of the Rolfe House is taken from the Statement of Significance prepared for the City of Chilliwack by heritage consultant, Donald Luxton & Associates that describes the home.

“The Rolfe House is a one and one-half storey, wood frame Craftsman-style house, located in an early residential neighbourhood in Chilliwack, British Columbia. It is distinguished by its side-gabled roofline, twin front gable dormers, full open front verandah and shingle cladding. Heritage Value of the Historic Place Constructed in 1921, the Rolfe House is significant as a representation of the ongoing growth and residential development of Chilliwack, the economic resurgence that occurred after the end of the First World War, and the architectural sophistication of the city’s developing neighbourhoods.”

Next time you drive - or walk down Wellington Avenue make sure you stop and admire this beautifully maintained heritage home.

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