East Pender and Columbia – north west corner

E Pender & Columbia nw

With the attention that Chinatown is receiving at the moment as a few new condo developments replace vacant sites or failed 70s malls and a shuttered casino, no doubt any proposal to redevelop this corner would bring critics out lamenting the loss of another heritage building. This 1978 (or so) image shows that the red brick structure that’s there today – or at least the exterior – isn’t a heritage building, it’s a rebuild of an older property. Not only that, it shows that in the past Chinatown merchants weren’t nearly as concerned about the Chinese character of Chinatown. The occupants of the building on the corner, C S importers Co Ltd, and the retail store, Trans-Nation Emporium Ltd adopted a distinctly Art Deco Moderne theme to their store decoration, with chrome lettering on a black shiny background and a chrome canopy over the sidewalk. The building dates back to 1904, when Loo Gee Wing, the Chinese merchant who developed throughout Chinatown and beyond, hired Emil Guenther to design the $21,000 building. No doubt Mr Guenther would have been able to identify his building in the 1970s, although the style of decoration might have surprised him. Mr Guenther’s history is apparently hard to confirm due to his name changing and partner hopping, but he was probably German who practiced across the US before settling in Vancouver.

Next door is an almost unchanged Chinatown heritage structure. Well, unchanged since 1926, when the third floor was added. H H Simmonds designed the recessed balcony addition, a perfect example of a non-Chinese architect interpreting Chinese design for a Chinese client. In fact, Simmonds was Australian. The architectural irony is that the original building was in the Italianate style (designed by a Chinese architect). When it was built in 1911 it had two storeys, designed by W H Chow for Lang Kwan and built by R A McCoullough for $9,500. Campbell and Dawson were recorded as the architects because theoretically Chow, being Chinese, wasn’t allowed to practice as an architect, although he seems to have circumnavigated that situation on a number of occasions, including 1915 when he was the architect for $400 of alterations to the building for owner Chong Yuen. In the 1920s it became home to the Cheng Wing Yeong Tong Society.

Next door to that is another substantial building (for the time) that had a similar appearance to many of the other commercial buildings built at the turn of the 20th Century in the immediate area. We’re pretty certain the developer was Yip Sang, in 1908, (and the closest in design looks like W T Whiteway’s design for Yip’s Wing Sang Company, on the corner of Carrall Street, and built in 1902). Hing Sing was shown as owner when he obtained permits for $1,000 of alterations in 1909, Lim Duck Chew was listed as an owner in the same year for an address at the western end of the block, Fong Sun was listed as the owner who added partitions in 1910, and Jim Lin in 1916 altered the store front, and also made alterations to the western end of the building in 1917 – but they could all be tenants. It was demolished in the 1990s after a fire, and a new project stalled, and was eventually replaced in 2008 by ‘East’, a Walter Francl designed 6-storey condo building over two retail stores that we saw better in an earlier look at this block looking the other way.

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Posted February 26, 2015 by ChangingCity in Altered, Chinatown, East End

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