Archive for the ‘Chinatown’ Category

Chinese Nationalist League of Canada

In 1920 the Kuomintang, also known as the Chinese Nationalist League, built themselves a new headquarters on the edge of Chinatown. Dr. Sun Yat-sen had lived in Vancouver for protracted periods and had raised substantial sums in support of the Chinese Revolution that ended the Qing Dynasty in 1911. Sun Yat-sen was appointed to serve as Provisional President of the Republic of China when it was founded in 1912. A year later the Kuomintang party was formed in China with him at its head, but the party was removed from power in a coup. In 1917 they established a rival government in Guangzhou, and the Kuomintang became a powerful political force in all the overseas Chinese communities. The Vancouver branch was built in 1920 to house the Western Canadian headquarters. Edwardes Sproat, a Glaswegian, designed the $60,000 building. He was an odd choice in some ways as he mostly designed classy houses in Shaughnessy Heights and Point Grey.

Our 1920s image shows that some of the top floor featured an open balcony on the Gore Street façade, and a corner pagoda on the roof, now lost. In 1927, after a civil war, (and two years after Sun Yat-sen’s death) the Kuomintang gained control of all of China. At the time, the Kuomintang was probably the most prestigious Chinese organization in Vancouver. In 1949, they lost control of China to The Communist Party of China and retreated to the island of Taiwan.

The building for a while was also the location of the “Chinese Public School”, one of several Chinese schools operating in Chinatown. Today the Chinese Nationalist League still operate from the building along with retail tenants including a  herbal medicine store and a Filipino restaurant.

Image source City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99 – 3202

 

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Posted December 4, 2017 by ChangingCity in Chinatown, Still Standing

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May Wah Hotel – East Pender Street

The May Wah was developed in 1913 at a cost of $75,000 by Barrett & Dean as ‘apartments/rooms’, designed by W F Gardiner. The building opened in 1915 as the Loyal Hotel, a name it retained until at least 1930. Mr. ‘Dean’ was really Evans Deane, born in Australia. He built a block in New Westminster as well, and in 1910 newspapers was described as ‘Evans B Dean, capitalist’. Mr. Barrett was George A Barrett, another broker. Both were involved in 1910 in a rail car company, drydock and ship building. Barrett and Deane also built the Empress Theatre on East Hastings. The street directory showed three partners in G A Barrett & Co; George Barrett, Evans Deane and Harry Musclow.

Evans Deane had first been in Vancouver around 1880, when he was working on tunneling contracts through the Rockies for the CPR. He moved to San Francisco from 1882 and 1887, and lived in Oakland, where he was a printer. He had first arrived in San Francisco in 1876 when he worked for a stockbroker for a number of years. He met his wife, Sophie who was from San Francisco, and they married in 1885, and apparently moved to Vancouver a year or two later. By 1891 Mr. Deane was a real estate broker and insurance agent in Vancouver. From 1903 to 1920 the Deane family, including their four children, lived in the West End.

In 1917 the Daily World reported a complex case involving the hotel: “TENANT MUST VACATE Lease of Hotel Property Held Not to be Good One. Evans B. Dean, a former owner of the Loyal Hotel, after conveying his title to other parties, made lease of the property for five years at $75 per month to a Chinaman; when as a matter of fact it is stated that the place can easily be rented for $200 per month. This morning the mortgagees, the Sun Life Insurance Company, who are now in possession of the title, made an application in supreme court chambers to have the lease broken and the tenant evicted. It was stated by Mr. H. A. Bourne that the lessor at the time he rented the property had no power to do so. and that the present tenant really stood in the position of a trespasser. The present titleholders had an opportunity to lease the place for $200 per month for the first six months, and at $250 per month after that period. Mr. Alex. Henderson, K. C, for the tenant, claimed that his client had acted in good faith, and it was not certain the lessor at the time the lease was made did not have power to make it. His lordship, however, ruled that it had been shown with sufficient clearness that the lease was not a good one, and ordered the tenant to vacate by the end of March.”

In 1918 Mr. Deane retired from real estate, and concentrated on his main interest, yachting. He was a life member of the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club. As well as owning yachts, including at different times Tillicum, Wide Awake and Alexandra, Mr. Deane owned a powerboat called Davey Jones. The family appear to have moved to Washington in the 1930s, but when Sophie Deane died in 1940 it was in Vancouver, and Evans was still here a decade later when he died, aged 91.

George Barrett was a builder in 1901, living in the West End in a house he built in 1901. The census shows him with his wife Mary, their four children, and sister in law, Laura Blackwell. He appears to have been born in England, but his wife came from Ontario, where they married in 1887 and where their 11 year old son, Henry, was born. The seven-year old, Meryl, was born in BC, so they presumably arrived in BC in the early 1890s. By 1903 he had moved into real estate, and in 1911 the family moved to a new house on E 19th, developed (according to the building permit) by Mary Barrett.

The Loyal was renamed the New Orient in 1947, the Le-Kiu in 1950, the Garden in 1956, the Sydney in 1969 and finally the May Wah in 1980. Le-Kiu are a Chinese grocery wholesalers who from 1967 to 1995 had a store at 262 East Pender that was the first Western-style supermarket in Chinatown, where instead of telling a clerk what you wanted to buy, it was self-serve. The company were formed by H Y Louie’s grandsons, although they are a different branch of the family from the Louie family who own London Drugs.

The hotel was bought by the Shon Yee Association in 1926, and has been used as a Single Room Occupancy hotel for almost a century. Our 1985 image shows that it has hardly changed over the past 30 or so years. Most recently it has been acquired in early 2017 by the Chinatown Foundation. More than 100 low-income seniors, mostly women, as well as a few businesses call the single-room occupancy (SRO) hotel home. The intention is that over the next few years the building will be renovated including seismic upgrades as well as cleared fire exits, and repaired roofs and walls.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 790-2386

Posted November 16, 2017 by ChangingCity in Chinatown, Still Standing

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Main and Keefer Street – sw corner

This rather uninspiring corner shot was reportedly taken by Walter E Frost in 1971. It shows a part of Chinatown that has seen two new building erected since then on this spot. Very soon after the picture was taken the corner was cleared and the Mandarin Centre, a casino and retail building, was developed by Faye & Dean Leung. In 2016 Westbank’s 17 storey residential replacement was completed, designed by W T Leung (as far as we know, no relation to Faye or Dean).

The corner structure seems to have cost $459 to build: designed by George Giepel for owner and builder A Damascas. There’s nobody of that name in any street directory around that time, but there was a Greek family called Damaskes with three brothers, recorded as Agisbie, Antoniy and Asiyer. They didn’t show up in the street directory because they were all lodgers with Petter Collos, another Greek, with a house on Columbia Street. The ‘architect’ is also impossible to find anywhere in the city, as well. The first occupants of the building appear to have been the Parisian Dye Works.

On the far left hand edge, the single storey, but more substantial brick building was designed by Maclure & Fox for Temple Godman, costing $7,000 for Baynes and Horie to construct. We’ve noted in an earlier post that we think this was Richard Temple Godman who liked to use the classy architects for relatively mundane projects.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 447-386

Posted September 21, 2017 by ChangingCity in Chinatown, Gone

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Vancouver Soda Water Works – 719 Gore Street

There were three Meikle bothers in Vancouver, and they all lived in this house and business on Gore Street when this picture was taken at the turn of the 20th Century. John D Meikle was aged 32 in 1901, William was 30 and Douglas was 34. All three brothers were from Scotland, with John, the head of the household arriving in 1894, and his brothers joining him in 1898. Meikle Brothers ran the Vancouver Soda Water Works from around 1900 here on Gore at the corner of Barnard (Keefer) Street.

Early soda bottles from the company show ‘Black Bear Brand’ ginger beer in ceramic bottles (that sell today at auction for several thousand dollars). The business prospered, although Douglas Meikle seems to have left the city quite soon after 1900. In 1904 the business became a limited liability company with $25,000 in shares issued, “to purchase or otherwise acquire the business, property and assets of Meikle Brothers, carrying on business in the City of Vancouver, as manufacturers and dealers in mineral and aerated waters”.

The Meikle’s seem to have picked up an earlier business; the Vancouver Soda Water Works had been in business as early as 1888, located a block west of here in the 700 block of Westminster Avenue (Main Street today). Initially it was run by A C Murchison & A F Derraugh, and in 1890 just by Mr Murcheson (who was Archie in the 1891 Census, but listed in the street directory as Colin), who moved the business to this address in 1892. He was from a Scottish family, but had been born in Ontario. Around 1893 the business seems to have closed for a while, and in 1894 it resumed operations, run by Alex Calley, (wrongly altered to Alex Kelley in 1899), partnered with G D Cross. From 1900 to 1905 George D Cross had his own Soda Water company on Pender Street, later run by A D Hossack after G D and J D Cross severed their relationship with Cross & Company in January of 1905, although the company continued in operation under the original name.

By 1908 Meikle Brothers were merged with Cross & Company and had moved to Richards Street, and of the three brothers only John D Meikle was still in Vancouver. Cross & Co continued in business making flavoured soda until the 1960s. These premises were taken over by Bell & Tedsbury, a lumber supplier, and G N Transfer Co. After the first war S Konokogi, a blacksmith occupied this location, with Joseph Robertson, a cooper, who remained here until the 1920s. By 1930 the site had become the Gasoline Alley service station run by Benjamin and Harry Felstein, later renamed to the Gore and Georgia Service Station, owned in 1950 by Joseph Lopez. In 1999 a new 2-storey retail building was completed, designed by Scott Gordon for J & F Investments.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu P25

Posted June 19, 2017 by ChangingCity in Chinatown, Gone

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2 West Pender Street

This sliver of a building has just been given a 21st century ‘makeover’ with the addition of a light show to an otherwise modest insurance office. The justification for the show is that, according to the Guiness Book of Records, this is the shallowest commercial building in the world; (not the narrowest). It was built in 1913, designed by Bryan and Gillam for the Sam Kee Company and cost just $8,000 to erect. (Behind it is a tenement building developed by another Chinatown merchant, Wing Sang).

It’s a good example of the hassles faced by the Chinese merchant community in the early days of the 20th Century – and their resilience. Sam Kee was an invented name for a company run by Chang Toy. He had built a 2-storey brick building here around 1901, one of several significant hotels and commercial buildings he developed. When the City of Vancouver moved to expropriate the site to widen Pender Street, Sam Kee instructed their lawyer to negotiate for $70,000 compensation in order that they achieved the $62,000 they estimated that the site was worth.

Our 1920s Vancouver Public Library image (above) shows that not content with getting the money, Chang Toy then got his architects to devise a steel framed structure that would maximize the development potential of his site, which was on average only six feet deep, and slightly less at one end. He added a barber’s shop (in 1920 it was run by Foo Key), and public baths in the basement, lit with glazed blocks set into the sidewalk. The main store was occupied by Sam Shing Lin Kee & Co, a shoestore.

In 1936, when the image above was shot, this may not have been an all Chinese tenanted building. While Chin Kee had a shoe repair business here and Y Kee was offering to repair or clean and press laundry, hotdogs and hamburgers only cost a nickel in the centre booth. Hires is a brand of root beer – still manufactured today and the second oldest soft drink brand in North America, dating back to 1875.  The corner unit, not visible in the picture, was the home of the Wong’s ‘Modernize Tailors’ store.

By 1961 when Walter Frost photographed the building (left) there was a tailor, Mr. E Rogers, and Wong’s jewelers and camera store (where they also cut keys) in the other half of the building.

Image sources; Vancouver Public Library and City of Vancouver Archives Bu N158.3 and CVA 447-346

Posted May 8, 2017 by ChangingCity in Chinatown, Still Standing

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Carrall Street – 400 block

None of the three buildings shown in this image (probably dating to early 1906) are still standing today. Indeed, we don’t think any of them lasted more than 10 years. We think the original brick building closest to us only stayed up for eight years, and was built in 1903. We’re pretty certain it was designed by W T Whiteway for Sam Kee, the company run by Chang Toy, described as ‘Brick & stone building’ and according to the permit, costing $12,000. The Sam Kee name can be seen on the building, and this is where the company was based for a while. Kwong Fat Yuen Co also had their name on the building; for a short while they operated as labour suppliers, and may have been related to a company of the same name in Shanghai.

The Daily World of June 19, 1903, confirms the building’s planning – with either a typo or price inflation: “Chinatown’s progress; A permit was taken out this morning for a building adjoining the tramway company’s property of Carrall Street for a Chinese firm. Mr. W. T. Whiteway is the architect. The building is to be two stories high and to be built of brick and stone. The cost is to be $13,000”. The building had a third storey added around 1907, but was demolished around 1910 and replaced by the BC Electric Railway Co’s building designed by W M Somervell, completed in 1911. That structure, still standing today as offices and a retail showroom, cost $350,000 and was built by McDonald and Wilson. No doubt Chang Toy made sure he was appropriately compensated for selling his property.

Beyond it to the south was the Chinese Methodist Mission fronting Pender Street. It was designed by Parr and Fee in 1899, and replaced only seven years later (soon after this picture) by the Chinese Freemasons Building constructed in 1906, for the Chee Kung Tong – a ‘secret society’ founded in the middle of the 19th Century by Chinese working in the BC gold fields. The permit, in summer 1906 was to Sing Sam, for a $20,000 3-storey brick and stone structure for stores & warehouse. Dr. Sun Yat Sen is reported to have stayed in the building, probably in 1911, while raising funds for his revolutionary Kuomintang party during his period of exile from China. It appears that the building may also have been mortgaged by the Tong in 1911 to support the revolution. In 1920 the organization changed their name to the Chinese Freemasons, although they are not associated with traditional freemasonry.

The original architect has not been identified; it could have been W T Whiteway who had several commissions in Chinatown. Alterations to the restaurant in the building costing $1,000 were designed by architect S B Birds in 1913; the owner was still Sing Sam. There was also a branch of the Bank of Vancouver on the ground floor. We don’t know a lot about Sam Sing, but we know he was wealthy enough to guarantee the $500 head tax for Fung Ying Quoy, and that he is buried in Mountain View Cemetery. He ran a store in the East Hotel (also designed by Samuel Birds), and in 1907 his business was based at 1 Canton Street, the address for which he received $335 in compensation for damage after that year’s anti-Asian riot.

The building was home to the Pekin Chop Suey House, whose slogan can still be seen today. The facades are all that remain of the original building; they were retained when the rest of the building was demolished in 1975, after a fire, and it was remodeled again in 2006 with architect Joe Wai restoring some of the lost heritage elements, and converting the upper floors to residential use.

Across Pender street was another Sam Kee property. We don’t know when he built this one, or who designed it, but it was 2 storeys, and already shows up on the 1901 insurance map – which was probably when it was built as before that the street directory suggests it was Cleeve Canning & Cold Storage Co and Bradbury & Brown’s stone cutting yard. This building lasted about 10 years, but in 1910 the city expropriated most of the land for road widening, leaving the company with a ‘useless’ (or so the City thought) six foot sliver. Chang Toy wasn’t too hard done by; the Sam Kee firm instructed its lawyer (W A Macdonald K C) to start negotiations for compensation of $70,000 to reach the desired value of $62,000. Then Bryan and Gillam were hired to design the $8,000 steel framed building that still stands there today on the shallow lot, completed in 1913, which added additional space under the sidewalk to squeeze in a barber’s store and bath house – but no secret tunnels.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 677-522

145 Keefer Street

145 Keefer 2

A three storey building  was approved for the Sam Kee Company in 1912, designed by Kennerley Bryan, to be built by R P Forshaw at a cost of $16,000. This permit was for apartments/rooms; described in the more detailed press notice as “three-storey brick store & rooming house; facing is red brick relieved with green tile; window ledges cement; galvanized iron cornice surmounts the bldg.” (Sam Kee was essentially a fictional character, the merchant who ran the company was Chang Toy.) This doesn’t seem like an ideal location for a residential building, and what was built doesn’t fit the description exactly.

This part of Keefer didn’t reach Columbia Street, because False Creek was right there. Across the street from this building was the Vancouver Gasworks, with a pair of retort houses on the street, and gasometers to the south. In the previous few years the edges of the channel had been tidied up, straightened and turned into a coal dock to deliver to the gasworks coal yard. Until it was abandoned and filled in some years later it occupied the place where Columbia Street would be extended; just to the west of this building.

This building wasn’t shown in the 1913 street directory (when the property next door was identified as being occupied by “Foreigners”). It showed up in 1914 as ‘New Building”. In 1915 the Maple Leaf Rice Mills were shown operating here, at 147 Keefer. While it didn’t reveal the owner, it suggested the business was Japanese. A year later a Chinese operator had taken over, Wing Kee Rice Mills. This was a Sam Kee owned company that Fred Townley had been hired to design a building for in 1912. We’re reasonably sure that it’s actually his design for the Rice Mill that got constructed. Paul Yee says that Sam Kee had operated a rice mill in the city from 1908.

In 1924 the Rice Mills were no longer listed but the Sam Kee Company had moved their offices here from East Pender, and were still in business here in the mid 1950s. Today the building continues to houses office space – the same company was occupying the building in our 1978 image.

Posted September 12, 2016 by ChangingCity in Chinatown, Still Standing

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