1603 Franklin Street

1603 Franklin

Here’s another building on Franklin Street, an area that was once a rapidly developing Chinese-led area. It was Chinese-led in the sense that many of the developers in the area were Chinese, often with other business interests and premises in the traditionally understood Chinatown centred on East Pender Street. In part this was encouraged by the city authorities, who were keen to see the older Chinatown become less oriental.

Franklin pan

The earliest image we’ve dug out is from 1928, with a remarkable panorama of a funeral procession in 1928. Our main photo identifies the building in 1956 as the Western Mat Co. Ltd., although the appearance suggests a different earlier history. It was built in 1910 at a cost of $15,000, the developer was recorded as S Sasaki, and the architect (and builder) was W H Archer. It was listed as a Frame Buddhist temple – we assume the frame refers to the structural aspect of the development. It was a Japanese Shin Buddhist temple: the first had been in a dining room in 1905, in 1906 it was moved to a refurbished home at 32 Alexander Street, and in 1911 the congregation moved to this building – the first purpose-built temple in the city. (There had been a number of earlier Chinese Buddhist temples in other buildings in Chinatown, but nothing purpose-built). the house on Alexander was sold, and became a Japanese language school.

Buddhist 1951buddhist 2Mr. Archer’s design was fairly clearly quite western – it certainly isn’t immediately obvious that it’s a Buddhist building, although some elements aren’t typical of a Christian church – notably the porch. This may not have been accidental; the Shin Buddhist community referred to their buildings as churches which had pews and an organ; the priests were called Reverend, even the services became closer to Christian services with hymns. The 1940 image on the left shows that for many years the building had a steeple. Mr. Archer was originally from Ireland, and his church designs weren’t limited to Christian structures; he designed St Paul’s Anglican in the West End in 1905, and also the city’s first Sikh Temple in 1908, built in Kitsilano.

Reverend Sasaki was from Fukui, near Kyoto, and arrived in the city with his wife in October in 1905, and two weeks after he arrived was giving a talk on the Buddha at City Hall. He raised the necessary funds from a congregation of over 650. The temple was built in an area known as ‘Heaps’ – named after Heap’s Mill at the foot of Victoria drive which employed large numbers of Japanese men. Having successfully developed the church, Rev Sasaki returned to Japan; for a while things went downhill from there. Reverend Kato Gungai was appointed, but questions about his financial ability led to him being replaced by Reverend Junichi Shigeno. As Terry Watada explains in a book on Canadian Buddhism, rather than return to Japan, Rev Kato remained in the city, spreading rumours about Rev Shgeno’s ‘libertine’ behavior. Eventually the church split, with a new congregation led by Shigeno on Jackson Street. After a while the two congregation reunited in 1925.

The 1936 street directory identified the building as the Canadian Buddhist Mission, but by 1938, even before the internment of the Japanese community in 1941 the religious use of the building had been abandoned. Instead the Academy of Dramatic Arts were now in the building. In 1950 the Franklin Christian Spiritual Church were using the building, and when our main image was taken the Western Mat Co had moved in, who made rubber mats, marine and loading dock bumpers. They were still in the building in the early 1960s. We’re not sure exactly when the church was demolished, but by the end of the 1970s the site had been redeveloped as the automotive service centre that’s still there today.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives, taken by A L Yates CVA Ch P98.2, and PAN N144.

Advertisements

Posted April 13, 2015 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

Tagged with ,

%d bloggers like this: