Here’s one of the last houses in Chinatown. By no means the final example – there’s another similar building on the same block – one by one they’re disappearing as new development replaces them. This building dates from some time between 1903 and 1912, and despite our digging we don’t know who built it. We do know that it wasn’t the first structure on the lot – right at the back of the lot, almost on the lane, is the original development which dates back to 1892. At that time the name and numbering was different, so this parcel was known as 225 Harris Street. The water permit was signed by Johannes Buntzen, book-keeper with Tatlow and Spinks, real estate brokers and sometimes developers. He had arrived from Denmark in 1889, lived nearby at 431 Harris, was married to Marie and by 1901 could afford to have a Chinese cook, perhaps because by then he’d moved on to become business manager with the Vancouver Electric Railway and Light Company. Whether he owned this property himself or signed as part of his job, we don’t know.
Various Street Directories tell us that the buildings saw quite a few changes in occupant over the years. In 1894 George Adams, a labourer lived here, and in 1895 George Sprung, a teamster working for Thomas Dunn. For two years it was vacant, Then in 1898 Robert Holland, a mason was here, and in 1899 Arthur Worsley, a candymaker moves in, and stays for at least 5 years until 1904, through the period that the street was renumbered and this became 245 Harris. In 1905 and 1906 James Fletcher, a motorman was living here, in 1907 it’s vacant (which may be when the building you see today was added on the street) and in 1908 Kato Soca, a laborer was resident.
In 1909 it becomes the Guey Wo Laundry, and it stays with that use (although the name sometimes gets recorded as Quey Wo) until the 1920s, through the renaming of Harris to East Georgia. (There were four Chinese businesses on Harris Street in 1910 – all four were laundries, and three were in the 200 block). In the early 1920s it changes name to the Georgia Laundry, which it still is in our blown-up Vancouver Archives 1933 image. We saw the truck in an earlier post – it’s Ah Mew’s vegetable delivery truck.
One similarity between 1933 and 2013 is that the building was for sale. The difference this time is that the building probably won’t look the same in a year or two, as this time it has been sold for redevelopment as a 9-storey rental building.
photo source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-4379 (detail)