East Pender Street – unit block (3)

This is our third look at this block. Our earlier posts were comparing the street today and 40 years ago. Over that period it really hasn’t changed much – at least to look at, although there has been some reconstruction over the years. Here we’re going back further – either to 1904, if you think the date in the Vancouver Public Library copy of this picture is correct, or 1906 if the Vancouver Archives are accurate. The street was originally called Dupont, then briefly became Princess before finally changing to East Pender in 1907. This part of the street was always part of Chinatown.

On the right is the Wing Sang Company’s headquarters. The 1889 building had already seen vertical and horizontal additions – faithfully restored a few years ago in the extraordinary Bob Rennie makeover of the buildings. Originally T E Julian was hired by Yip Sang to carry out the extensions in 1901 costing $10,000, and J G Price was hired in 1911 to add a further $25,000 structure. The next two buildings date from 1889 and 1920. These days they’re all part of the Yue Shan Society complex of buildings. W H Chow designed the three storey structure. Between the two buildings is a narrow alley that leads to a courtyard; behind that is a third building. That was developed by Sam Kee (a company name for Sam Toy’s merchant empire) in 1912, and cost $46,000. It was designed by Edward Stanley Mitton. Wing Sang had a wide range of import and trading interests, including opium trading in the late 1880s, and ownership of an opium processing business in the late 1900s.

We can see that the next two 4-storey buildings were built after 1906. Su Lee Wo Co built the first for $18,000 in 1910, hiring R J McDonald to design it. The second was, until recently, known as the home of Ming Wo Cookware, but they only occupied it in 1922. It was built in 1907 by Wong Soon King, (who also owned a company called Hip Tuck Lung) at a cost of $15,000, altered to in 1913 and added to in 1914 with W H Chow as architect. The owners were traders, but also processed opium, with a large operation that imported Indian raw materials, ‘cooked’ it to refine it, and mostly exported to China (and sometimes illegally to the United States). It only became illegal to process opium in Canada at the end of the 1900s. Hip Tuck Lung’s premises were listed on the opposite side of the street from 1889 to 1907, but their premises on this side were first listed as opium factory in 1907. The local press reported the new development “One of the largest opium factories on the coast is now in course of completion in the new Hip Tuck Lung building on Dupont street (Pender east) near Carrall. There will be 13 ovens, in operation. These ovens the Chinese call roasting pots. The object of this factory is not so much to do the work that was done in the roasting ovens of San Francisco before the earth trembled as to provide supplies for shipment from here to China. The land of the moon swallowing dragon has through its empress dowager put a ban on the manufacture or sale of opium.”

Before the new building was constructed Lee Yune (or Yuen) had an opium and tea import business here, presumably in the 2-storey building in the picture, and later an opium factory. The business moved into Market Alley (behind Pender Street) and slightly to the west when Hip Tuck Lung built their new building, and were the last business still listed processing opium in the city, in 1910, along with Wing Sang.

At the end of the block is another Yip Sang development, this one occupied for many years by the Chinese Times. He built the premises in 1902, and hired W T Whiteway to design it. W H Chow later designed alterations. In 1913 he added a new building on the remainder of the lot, around the corner. The West Hotel was (and is) nine floors high, and designed by J G Price, who was recorded in the street directory as a structural engineer.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 677-530

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Posted 5 November 2020 by ChangingCity in Altered, Chinatown, Still Standing

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