East Pender and Columbia Street (2)

Columbia Block 1972

Over the forty plus years since the earlier view of this building, relatively little changed on the building originally designed by R T Perry for Sam Kee. In 1935 they were the Tung Ah Rooms; they were still called that two decades later. Just as in 1929 W Santien and Co were occupying the store: but instead of dry goods they sold men’s furnishings – they were still there ten years later as well.  Next door was Tom’s Taxis and the Sen Sen barber’s store; in 1955 it had become the Joyland Arcade. At 107 in 1945 was Way Lee’s confectionary store;  ten years later the Dai Yew Club operated. By 1972 when this picture was taken Con’s Appliances occupied the main floor and the rooms upstairs hadn’t changed their name – they were still the Tung Ah Rooms, although the building had been tidied up and named the Columbia Block. A VPL shot from 1961 show’s Con;s was already established in the building then.

In 1974 the rooms were closed as a result of new City by-laws. It was closed down for seven years, and reopened in 1981 with an additional floor. It had fewer, quite a bit larger rooms, but they were still small. The developers were the Dart Coon Club – an organisation loosely associated with the Chinese Freemasons. The Club still exists, but have their club premises on the other side of the street, but they administer the rooms here. The Chinese Freemasons included Harry Con, who ran Con’s Appliances and was also active in the Strathcona Property Owners and Tenants Association who eventually stopped the redevelopment of the entire Strathcona area. In 1967 he had published the first history of Canada written in Chinese, and in 1982 was awarded the Order of Canada. They hired Joe Wai to design the renovated store fronts and third floor addition.

Today the Chinese Tea Shop have their store here, and along Columbia are three newly opened ‘pop-up’ stores. Three murals, added in 2010, show the Wah Chong Laundry (which was on Water Street), Chinese men in 1936, and a 1905 merchant called Lee Chong. The artist is Arthur Shu Ren Cheng and the work was initiated by the Vancouver Chinatown Business Improvement Association.

Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-451

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Posted January 13, 2014 by ChangingCity in Altered, Chinatown, Still Standing

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