Main and Powell Streets – north east corner

We didn’t know who built the buildings on the corner of Main and Powell, seen in this 1941 Vancouver Public Library image until Heritage Vancouver’s Patrick Gunn pulled out a piece in the Daily World from 1905. Samuel Champion of Champion and White acquired the lots from J W Horne for $3,000 and built the stores with rooms above at a cost of $3,500. Samuel K Champion was a builder and developer in partnership as a building materials supplier as Champion & White. A few years earlier he had built a property on East Pender. He was from England, and migrated in his twenties to Ontario. His obituary, in 1930, says he arrived in Vancouver the day after the fire, and went on to own a building supply company with William White. He obtained sand and gravel from Spanish Banks, although with no powered tugs to haul the loads, the first scow ended up at the bottom of False Creek. Census records suggest Mr. Champion was a bachelor for most of his life, but Samuel Kenrick Champion married Oliva Kohler, a widow, in 1925. On his marriage certificate Mr. Champion claimed to be 58 years old, which would put his birthdate around 1867. In earlier census records he was shown born in 1861, and his birth certificate shows that he was born in Clifton, in Gloucestershire, in 1855, so he was actually 70 when he married. Sadly, his marriage didn’t last long, as his death certificate shows he was already a widower.

The garage to the east (on the same legal lots) was developed in 1922 by T. Natahara, built by J B Arthur at a cost of $7,000. Although the 1921 census didn’t seem to find him (or mis-spelled his name) Toshiro Natahara was in Vancouver, living on Alexander Street with his wife Kikie. In 1919 their recently born daughter died soon after her birth. One reason he seems to have produced few records is that more directory entries spell his name as Natsuhara, although the census didn’t spot him with that spelling either.

Between at least 1918 and 1920 T. Natsuhara had a general store a block to the east of here, and K. Natsuhara worked as a clerk. Klyojiro Natsuhara first appears in the 1917 directory; working as a millman. T. Natsuhara is first here in 1918, when he acquired a Maxwell automobile, and in 1923 he was shown managing the Safety Garage, (although just in that year he also managed to have another entry as T. Natahara.)

The corner building was repaired in 1912, when S Ogasa was listed as the owner – although the street directory and the census says he was S Okada, and he was a general merchant, born in Japan and living at the same address with his wife and two sons. There was no building here in 1903, although there were three houses where the garage was later developed.

K Okada’s general store appeared in 1906, and the following year was damaged when The Asiatic Exclusion League  organised a riot, vandalizing Chinatown and Japantown. Later that same year, the Federal Government held an inquiry to look at providing compensation the Asian community, and Mr. Okada was awarded $241 for the damage to his property. Keiji Okada had arrived in Vancouver in 1901, and by 1911 he was aged 43 and living on West 1st Avenue with his wife Hisa (who was 20 years younger) and their 2-year-old son. As well as the store owner he was the manager of Sun Ban, another store, and vice-president of the Japan & Canada Trust & Savings Co Ltd. It’s safe to assume K and S Okada were related, most likely brothers. The store changed hands in tragic circumstances. The Daily World reported “Keiji Okada Manager, of the Sun Ban, Dies by His Own Hand; Shot Himself Twice; No Cause Known.” “One of the best known Japanese in Vancouver, Mr. Keiji Okada, manager of Sun Ban, the Oriental store on Granville street, committed suicide by shooting, early today, his body being found on the mud flats at the foot of Jackson avenue. He leaves a wife and child who are at present on a trip to Japan. According to local Japanese there was no reason for the act and it is believed he took his life while temporarily Insane.”

By the late 1930s through to 1941 when the picture was taken there was a confectionary store on the corner, with three rooms above, one used by a massage practitioner, K Ushijima. A year later the street was almost empty, with the Japanese community forced to leave the coast. Mr. Ushijima’s name still appears in the street directory that year, and Ernie’s Ice Cream (run by E G Jones) had taken over the corner in what must have been a very quiet neighbourhood.

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Posted March 23, 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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