Keefer Street – 100 block


The tallest buildings that were on the 100 block of Keefer Street in the 1960s are still there today. The three storey building next to an old frame dwelling was over 50 years old in the original picture and is now over 100 years old. It was built by the Sam Kee Company in 1912 designed by Kennerley Bryan, and built by R P Forshaw at a cost of $16,000. Initially it was given a permit as apartments/rooms. Sam Kee was essentially a fictional character, the merchant who ran the company was Chang Toy. Today the building houses office space, a change that occurred many years ago as Sam Kee were running their business from here in the 1950s.

Further down the street and slightly older is the four storey $18,000 building built by the Vancouver Gas Co and designed by “Sharpe and Thompson” in 1910 (according to the permit – actually they were Sharp and Thompson). It was used as a warehouse in conjunction with the industrial gas plant built nearby, including storage of equipment. A few years ago it was extensively restored with an additional floor added on the roof. It now houses residential units, although they’re available as short-stay rental, and a new bar/restaurant called The Keefer.

In between is a two storey building that was built at some point after 1912; (we haven’t been able to tell exactly when), and which replaced an earlier brick building designed in 1901 by T E Julian for Hip Tuck Lung Co, one of Chinatown’s legal opium processing companies. It was probably built as stables as by 1914 McFarland & Co, blacksmiths were at this location, and by 1920 two more blacksmiths, Alex Foulds and John MacRitchie were here. From the mid 1920s into the 1940s a horse dealer, Ernest Atkinson, used these premises.

Beyond the Gas Company building Sam Kee and Kee Ling developed a $25,000 office/store designed by Vancouver’s only Chinese architect, W H Chow, in 1914. That’s probably the same building in the 1960s picture, although today the site sits vacant.

The two biggest changes are the revision of the road system to the west (and the addition of street trees, which almost hide the buildings in spring and summer), and the replacement of the Keefer diversion and Marshall Wells warehouses with the Sun Yat Sen Garden, with the International Village residential towers behind.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-474


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