79 East Pender Street

This Chinatown Family Association Building is a looking a little worse for wear these days. It started life as a simple two storey Italianate building – similar to many others in the locality, and like Yip Sang’s building nearby, making no explicit architectural reference to its Chinatown location. Approved in 1911, it wasn’t the first building on the site. That was wooden, and constructed very quickly after the 1886 fire. The architects of the replacement 1911 building were Campbell and Dawson. W H Chow, a talented Chinese designer whose ethnicity prevented him from registering as an architect, submitted plans for minor changes in 1915. Lang Kwan was shown owning the building, although there was another permit in 1911 for Wang Ching who operated the store here. Chow Yuen paid for repairs in 1920, and Cheng Suey Chung in 1921.

We can’t find anybody called Lang Kwan in the city in 1911, but we suspect the owner was the businesses located here. The grocery listed here was Kwong Lun Hing, and they had operated at this location before the brick building was constructed. Kwong Lun Hing & Co had a store in San Francisco as early as 1880, another in San Jose in 1886. They imported Chinese foods, but probably had wider trading interests. Kwong Lun Hing Co. in Victoria deposited ten boxes of opium in 1888 with the California Safe Deposit and Trust Co. as security for a loan of $5,500.¬†

From 1912 to 1915 Kwong Sang and Co, and import merchant operated here, followed in 1916 by Kee Fat (later corrected to Kee Fah) who ran a confectionery store here until the early 1920s. In 1923 Hop Sang Co, grocers and dry goods had taken the store, with Jung Fook Jack as manager.

The building was transformed in 1926 for the Cheng Wing Yeong Tong Society, a family association who hired Hodgson and Simmonds to design the $7,000 of repairs and alterations to add the third storey veranda floor with a recessed balcony, and the decorative pediment. Hop Sang Co continued to occupy the ground floor. In 1940 they had become Hop Sang Lung Kee, but by 1945 that had reverted to Hop Sang, general merchandise. They were here in 1951, before moving to Powell street. The store was empty for a year, and then in 1953 the Ho Inn chop suey house located here, (not to be confused with the Ho Ho). Seen here in 1972, the restaurant was damaged and forced to close in 1987 after a suspected arson fire that started in a van next to a neighbouring building. It was rebuilt in 1991, and was last home to a Chinese furniture import business that moved to Toronto several years ago. The Cheng Wing Yeong Tong Society continue to occupy the upper floors.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-444

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Posted 8 November 2021 by ChangingCity in Chinatown, Still Standing

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