Henry and Grace Ceperley purchased a strawberry farm from George Clayton in 1909. The Ceperley family wanted to use the farmland to build a retirement home. Their home, named Fairacres, was built on the north shore of Deer Lake in 1911. The house was designed by the English architect, R.P.S. Twizell. The Ceperley House, with its river rock veranda, beautiful hand-crafted woodwork, stained-glass and tile, remains one of the finest examples of Edwardian architecture in the Lower Mainland. At the time there was no house in Burnaby that could match the size and grandeur of the Fairacres estate. The estate was described in a 1912 local paper:
Fairacres, Mr. H.T. Ceperley’s palatial home with its fine lawns, terraces, rockeries, greenhouses, pumping station for irrigation, lodge stables and outhouses, costing $150,000 is alone worth a visit to Deer Lake. The estate comprises twenty acres, ten of which are landscaped. Much credit is due to Mr. Legge, the landscape gardener, for his artistic temperament. A fine glimpse of Deer Lake is to be had from the grounds.
In 1917, Grace Ceperley died and left Fairacres to her husband with the stipulation that when the home was sold the proceeds would be used to build a playground for the children of Vancouver in Stanley Park. Following Mrs. Ceperley’ wish, the home was sold in 1922 to Frederick Buscombe, a former Vancouver Mayor.
In 1939, a community of five Benedictine monks came from Mount Angel, Oregon to establish a priory in British Columbia. They decided to purchase the Ceperley House for their monastery. A large gymnasium was built on the property which was later converted into the James Cowan Theatre when the property was acquired by the City of Burnaby in 1966. For a brief time the house was used as a fraternity for some of the first students to attend Simon Fraser University. The old mansion began its life as an art museum in the 1960s.
The Burnaby Art Gallery began as an association in 1967 collecting and presenting contemporary art. The City of Burnaby assumed management of the gallery, its collection, staff and governance in 1998. During that same year the City began restorations of the exterior of Ceperley House and upgraded the building for improved public use. The renovations were completed in 2000, transforming the house back to its appearance of 1911. The gallery along with the other cultural facilities in Deer Lake Park, the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts and the Burnaby Village Museum are part of the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department within the City of Burnaby.
To view images of Ceperley Mansion or to read more about the building, please visit City of Burnaby Archives.