200 East Pender Street

Despite some liberties taken with the cornice, which these days (and in our 1978 image) has a fake Chinese pantile affair, this is a genuinely old building in today’s Chinatown. When it was first built in 1895, it was a main street (called Westminster Avenue) – not Main Street, and with almost no Chinese businesses. Chinatown was located to the west of here, and expanded eastwards later. Here it is in a 1910 Vancouver Public Library image, before the tiles were added, but around the time when Chinese tenants started to move into the area. The Mon Sun Barbershop was here for over seventy years, and the King Hong Co. Chop Suey House was also here for a long period. The upper floors were used for lodging rooms, professional offices, and the meeting rooms of a Chinese musical society. Among the early professional tenants was Dr. J. Scott Conklin, remembered as a ‘noted B.C. Medical pioneer’.

It was built by James Borland, who was originally from Ontario, arriving in Vancouver around 1891 He started as a builder with two houses built in 1892 – both still standing. He ended up developing a property empire, including several hotels and other commercial investments. For this project (when he was still shown as a plasterer in the street directory) he might have partnered with James Ironside, who built the next door building to the south. He won the contract to plaster the new Mount Pleasant school in 1892. Most buildings along Westminster Avenue were half the depth of the lot, with a rear yard.  In 1907, Borland extended the building east along Pender Street to the lane. In 1919 he sold it to Chinese owners, but the tiled element wasn’t added until 1970. Today there’s an accountant’s office upstairs, and Ten Ren Tea and Ginseng moved from a few doors away to occupy the main floor.

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Posted May 2, 2019 by ChangingCity in Chinatown

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