Powell Street – 400 Block

This image shows that some false front western ‘boomtown’ buildings may not be as old as they appear. While two of these structures were standing when this 1979 image was shot, two were added more recently in a style that replicates some characteristics of the older buildings. The slightly shorter of the older buildings in the centre of the ‘before’ picture was home to Double Happiness Foods – today that company occupies all four buildings (and a few years ago added the vibrant colour scheme).

There were also four buildings standing here a century ago. 417 and 423 Powell, (the newer structure, now one building behind two facades) were originally developed before 1890 as two houses, numbered at the time as 409 and 411 Powell Street. By 1912 they had been added to and altered to bring the front of the building to the back of the sidewalk and were listed as 419 and 423. There was a watchmaker, K Kenno in 419 and a general store operated by M Egawa in 423 in 1911. As early as 1905 several of the houses on this block were occupied by Japanese residents, including 423 and 427. The street directory didn’t record their names – just labeling them ‘Japanese’. Arthur Guilmett, a teamster was living at 419. However, from the building permit we know 423 was owned in 1904 by J Kihara, who added to the house here (perhaps to create the storefront).

427 Powell, the original Double Happiness structure, was apparently first built here as early as 1901, when J Hori was recorded at 425 Powell. ‘Hori’ was recorded in the census; born in Japan in 1876, and immigrating to Canada in 1893. He may have been at this address longer, as before 1901 427 was only recorded in the street directory as ‘Japs’. In 1903 J Hori had moved to 441 Powell and Mrs Louisa Gonzales living at 427 Powell, surrounded by Japanese neighbours. In 1908 K Kenno was here, before moving two doors to the west a year or two later. By 1911 G Hori had moved in, and in 1917 had repairs carried out by its owner, probably inaccurately recorded as H Yori; (actually, it was Y Hori, a confectionery business, correctly recorded in the list of building permits in the British Columbia Record). Hori’s coffee shop and bathhouse operated here for over 30 years until the early 1940s. Chitose-Yu was one of five Japanese style of uro bathhouses existing in the neighbourhood. Bathers would thoroughly scrub themselves before entering the large communal hot tub. Bathhouses charged 5 to 10 cents a bath, and provided towels, soaps, and washcloths.

433, on the right, appears to have been built slightly more recently – in 1908 S Aoki ran a grocery here, at the rear of the premises, and the streetfront building seems to have been built around that time, with the boot and shoe business of T Saegusa occupying the store. At one time there was an attic third floor, now there’s a flat roof and a false top floor façade with an empty window space.

The Japanese connections to the neighbourhood ended  tragically and suddenly with the Second World War, and the premises were taken over by other interests. In 1946 a construction company and Kosher Poultry Killing operated here. By the mid 1950s almost all the businesses were Chinese, although Paramount Salvage were at 423 Powell. In our 1979 image, as well as Double Happiness Foods, there was a thrift store encouraging passers by to Get Right With God.

Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-319


Posted November 9, 2017 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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