Boundary Bay Cemetery

856 56th Street
Delta, BC

Built: 1891

Set at the crest of a ridge with panoramic views overlooking Boundary Bay to the east, the historic Boundary Bay Cemetery is located at the corner of 56th Street and 8th Avenue in Tsawwassen, between the town centre and the United States border. It is situated on rolling terrain surrounded by mature deciduous trees and native conifers.

Status: Still Exists

Boundary Bay Cemetery - 2006
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Heritage Value

The Boundary Bay Cemetery is valued as the oldest operating cemetery in Delta, and over time has adapted to shifts in the population and community of Delta. It was established as a burial ground in 1891 on six acres purchased by the municipality, a heavily treed site with poor drainage set amongst the rich agricultural land of Tsawwassen. In 1908, local architect H.J. Cresswell provided plans for a new portion of the cemetery. Additional land was purchased in 1917 to expand the cemetery, which remains in active use.

A physical testament to the strength and continuity of the Delta community, the cemetery embodies a collective memory and spirit. A wide variety of people are interred at the cemetery-including different ethnic, secular and religious groups, and many community members who reflect the history, development, heroics and tragedies of Delta, with local, provincial and national connections. The Military section is set aside for veterans. Noted pioneer families buried here include the Ladners, Kirklands, Kittsons, Lannings, Burrs, Pybuses and Riches. Reflecting the diversity of the community, a Chinese section is located in the middle area of the cemetery, with graves aligned on a north-south axis, the opposite direction of the Western graves.

The cemetery also features many decorative and unique monuments and headstones, ranging in materials from wood to stone and metal, that illustrate the changing nature of memorialization through time. The style and size of the markers help to delineate the different sections of the cemetery, and the variety of markers reflects the changing tastes, values and economies that have directed the cemetery's development and configuration over time.

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements that define the heritage character of the Boundary Bay Cemetery include its:

  • open expanse of lawn with mature deciduous trees and native conifers, with commanding views of Boundary Bay
  • vegetation associated with Victorian cemeteries, such as holly, cypress and yew trees
  • majority of graves on an east-west axis, with north-south orientation in the Chinese section
  • different methods of commemoration over time, including the move to horizontal lawn markers, more uniform in size and material, that were used after the 1960s
  • variety of high quality gravestone materials, such as carved granite, cement, limestone, sandstone, and metal
  • variety of gravestone styles, such as cross, shouldered, domed and screened headstones, and flat plaque and slat-faced markers and column types, such as sawed-off tree stumps, obelisks, and columns topped by urns
  • many gravestones footed with cement convex ground ledgers or cement or granite curbing delineating family plots
  • variety of gravestone symbols, such as epitaphs, religious or animal symbolism, body symbolism, fraternal and social organizations, boat and fishing imagery and plant and floral motifs