219 and 221 Union Street

These two houses were built on Barnard Street, and demolished many years later on Union Street – (The street name was switched in 1911). The pink house on the left may be the older – there’s a house shown in the same position on an 1889 insurance map, and initially not numbered, although James Brooking was shown living here in 1890. A year later the compilers of the directory got thoroughly confused, listing the street as Bernard Street, and putting even numbered properties on the north side (which wasn’t generally the case). By 1894 they had that sorted out, and the numbering showed 213 Barnard on the left, vacant. and 215 Barnard on the right occupied by Sid and Levie Henry. A year later W T Farrall was in 213 and Amos Schorf in 215.

In 1896 John Rowell was at 213, and John Allen at 215. The regular occupancy changers suggests these were initially rented rather than owner occupied properties. For a number of years 213 disappeared completely, and the original house may have been demolished, or abandoned, but by 1901 that address was shown occupied by James Hogg, a teamster, then Robert Hogg, a laundryman a year later. The Hogg family are shown in the census; Robert was shown as a laundryman. The street directory said he worked for the Dominion Steam Laundry (which was on Powell Street). Before he moved to Barnard he was living on East Cordova. In 1901 he was shown aged 23 living with his wife Sarah, who was three years older. They were both from Ireland, and had arrived in Canada in 1899.

John Allen, now identified as a teamster, was still at 215. He was from Ontario, and was aged 50 in 1901. He had two daughters living at home with him, Bessie, who was 16, and Mary, 14. In 1903 number 213 became 219 with Robert Hogg still in residence, and John Allen still living next door, now numbered as 221. The Allens would stay at 215 for several more years, but the Hogg family moved out, replaced by Thomas Parry. The Parry family were from Wales, and all arrived in 1907, and this seems to have been their first home in Vancouver. Thomas was aged 45, and worked as a checker. His wife Alice was the same age, and their were four children at home aged between 15 and 21. Son Richard was a salesman, his sister, Mary, a bookkeeper, and the other two daughters, Dorothy and Gladys were all listed as ‘saleslady’. Gladys worked at David Spencer’s store – and it’s possible the other family members may have worked there too, as Spencer was also from Wales.

In 1911 John Allen was recorded by the census aged 55, and he now had a French born wife, Mary, 10 years younger. His daughters were no longer at home, but there were a lot of people sharing the house. Alex, James and Barney Paul, were roomers, and so too were Thomas Newland, James Watson and Alex Lambert. Lambert was the odd man out – he was English, and a prospector. The other lodgers were all Scottish, and all but one teamsters, like their host.

That year Barnard Street became Union Street, supposedly to avoid the potential confusion with Burrard Street. It nearly changed again seven years later when an Alderman proposed it should become Victory Street – but that change wasn’t supported. Why it got the name Union Street is unknown.

Over the years many other families occupied the houses, and the area changed character. Across the lane to the west a house that had been built in the early 1900s became a café – Vie’s Cafe, run by Vie Moore who was part of the city’s small black community, concentrated nearby including across the street to the south along Hogan’s Alley. The houses in our picture were however occupied in the mid 1950s by Chinese families; Lee Woo at 219 and Wong Hee Mun at 221. In fact, apart from a few commercial operations, this stretch of Union Street was predominantly Chinese.

Our before image dates from the 1970s, although it is wrongly identified as being Main Street in the Archives description. The site was cleared in the early 2000s, and in 2010 V6A was completed, a nine storey condo with retail along the street, including the Union Café that occupies the site of these houses.

Image source City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-355

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Posted February 11, 2019 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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