Archive for the ‘Chinatown’ Category

Mah Society – 137 East Pender Street

This Chinatown society building is one of the best-preserved, and now   looking even better after a recent makeover. The work included restoring the elaborate pediment, and the top floor balcony that had been lost many years before 1985, when our ‘before’ picture was shot. The building was constructed in 1913, and while it was located in Chinatown, it was developed by William Dick, (possibly William Dick junior, who ran a successful clothing company, owned British Columbia Estates, a local real estate development company, and later was a Conservative Member of the BC Legislature for Vancouver City, elected in 1928). He hired H B Watson to design the $30,000 apartment rooms, with a commercial space on the main floor, built by R G Wilson & Son. When it was first built this was a four storey building, and if you ignore the top floor, it looks like many other buildings of the era, and had no discernible ‘Chinese’ character.

Because it was located in Chinatown, the first tenant was Chinese. Mr. Dick spent another $400 in ‘repairs’ (but probably really the fitting out of the commercial space) built by the Kwong Fong Co only six months after the initial building permit. Kwong Yee Lung Company, a grocer, occupied the main floor while the upper floors were the Ming Lee Rooms. with thirty nine rooms on the other three floors where tenants shared bathrooms and kitchens. There were various changes to the building, including a 1917 alteration designed and carried out by W H Chow.

In 1921 the Mah Family Society raised $45,000 to buy the building, and a further $5,650 was spent to add the fifth floor (although the permit was for $7,000). This was built by Chen Yi, but the Mah Gim Do Hung hired English born architect E J Boughen to design the addition. The Society, one of a number of branches across Canada and in the US, moved their offices out of the building before 1960, and today the Mah Benevolent Society Of Vancouver occupy premises on East Hastings. The upper floors still have 36 SRO rooms which in the image were the Ah Chew Rooms and more recently have been known as the Asia Hotel. The fifth floor still houses the society meeting hall. The main floor in the picture was the Kwangtung Restaurant, later becoming a Buddhist vegetarian restaurant, and today houses the Jade Dynasty, one of Chinatown’s remaining Cantonese dim sum restaurants.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 790-2382

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Posted November 22, 2018 by ChangingCity in Chinatown, Still Standing

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East Pender Street, 100 block – south side lane

This 1914 image shows the end of the lane behind Main Street (recently renamed from Westminster Avenue), where it joins East Pender (opposite our previous post, so the south side of the street). On the right is the Sherman Hotel, and on the left there’s a vacant lot. It had been occupied by the Glasgow Hotel, developed by Michael Costello in 1889. Residents of the hotel (which had become a rooming house) were rushed out of the building in the fall of 1912 when a fire broke out in a harness shop on the ground floor. The Daily World journalist made the most of the story: “The building was fast filling with smoke and writhing tongues of flames leaped through the flooring to shoot Into the rooms above”. The $1,000 of damage was covered by insurance.

In February 1913 it was announced that Parr McKenzie and Day had been hired to design a replacement building for the site which would have office space over stores. In September it was announced that the plan had changed: the site had been sold to a financial institution: “One of Vancouver’s big financial Institutions, the agent who handled the transaction will not disclose the purchaser’s Identity, has bought the southwest corner property of Main and Pender for a consideration that figures out at $3000 per front foot on Main street. The property is described as lots 1 and 2 in block 15 of D. L. 196. It extends along Pender street for 122 feet and has a frontage on Main of 66 feet. It was formerly known as the Glasgow hotel. H. McKlnnon & Company, real estate agents, put through the deal. The property was owned by Mr. Robert Alexander. The purchasers will erect a fine ten-storey modern store and office building within a very short time on the property.”

No doubt falling foul of the economic collapse that was already severely affecting the local economy, and made worse by the outbreak of war in Europe, the Canadian Bank of Commerce (today’s CIBC) scaled back their plans. The new building was only slightly larger than the hotel, although the design was monumental. The imposing new branch was designed by their Scottish-born architect, V D Horsburgh (based in Toronto) at a cost of $100,000. Local architect W F Gardiner supervised the construction by Baynes and Horie. While the building didn’t extend all the way to the lane, and at the back was built of brick (seen here), the front had four huge (hollow) columns, one of the architect’s favourite architectural elements.

The Sherman Hotel was part of Chinatown, receiving a $15,000 alteration in 1910 designed by J C Day for Kwong Wing Chong. The company imported Chinese Curious and Kimonos, and operated from the other end of the block. A 1917 court case identified Chim Cam, a Chinese silk merchant, who originally carried on business in Nelson, B .C., under the firm name of Kwong Wing Chong, and later, with a number of others, one of them being Chin Mon, started a partnership business in Vancouver under the firm name of Kwong Wing Chong, Importing Company. Chim Cam resided in Nelson, and the Vancouver business was managed by Chin Mon .

The building only appear that year, with James Cannon running the hotel. Prior to this there was a Sherman Hotel, but it was on Water Street, also run (and apparently owned) by Mr. Cannon. Briefly, both hotels operated under the same name. Earlier, in the late 1890s there were houses here, almost all occupied by ladies in the acknowledged (but fiercely debated) Dupont Street red light district. By 1906 they had almost all been forced to move on – many of them to Alexander Street – and once they had gone the street name was altered to East Pender to obliterate all memory of the ‘street of shame’.

In 1920 there were two $1,000 alterations, one for the hotel owner, Chas King, and one for the Shong Yee Tong Association.

Image source; City of Vancouver Archives CVA LGN 1231

Posted October 1, 2018 by ChangingCity in Chinatown, Gone

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East Pender Street, 100 block – north side lane

This image, taken in 1914, shows the north side of East Pender, where the lane cuts through, with the buildings fronting onto Main Street on the right hand side of the picture. The street is dominated by the electrical infrastructure, because the BC Electric Power House and Transformer was three blocks south of here. The brick building on the right of the lane was the back corner of the back wing of City Hall, built fronting Westminster Avenue (today’s Main Street).

At 153 East Pender was Sang Lee Yuen’s grocery store, with Yin Hing Lung’s tailoring business also in the building. Next door was Wing Hong Chong’s produce store, and there was another grocer to the west, Mee Lung Jung. A few years earlier, in 1908, Alice Arnold had run 153 as a rooming house, and next door was the Railway Porter’s Club.

From the late 1890s these were part of the Dupont Street (unsanctioned) red light district; in 1901 Jennie Manning ran 153, Frankie Reid was at 149 and Lottie Mansfield at 143. The houses, and their particular role in the city’s economy had been here for over a decade. The numbering was revised in the late 1890s, and 153 had been 133 in 1896 When Miss S Hatley was the occupant. Next door at 131 was one of Vancouver’s most successful madams, Dora Reno, while to here east was ‘Miss Mansfield’. The city authorities finally moved to shift the brothels from the area in 1906, and only Lottie Mansfield remained; the authorities weren’t able to move her on as she owned the house.

Laura Reno had been at 131 Dupont as early as 1889 (and probably commissioned the construction of the house, which was shown as a $1,500 building permit published on December 31 1888). Laura was Dora’s sister, and helped run Dora’s business. Dora owned property here as well; she lost the deeds to a property in 1891, and obtained a duplicate title after the necessary procedures.

Dora’s full name was Madora Reno, and the sisters were from Macoupin, Illinois, where Dora was born in 1858, and Laura two years later. The sisters moved from Fairhaven in 1889 where Dora ran the finest of the 20 establishments in the town. In Vancouver she had ‘retired’ by 1904 when she was prosecuted  for owning a house used for prostitution – 140 Dupont, one of four she owned on the street. Her lawyer successfully persuaded the court that the by-law wasn’t legally within the purview of the city authorities, but she took a lower profile from that point on. Laura Reno had previously been accused of running a bawdy house in 1889 and in 1890.

Both sisters owned property. As well as the 1888 permit, Laura Reno obtained a building permit in 1901 for 3 houses, designed by Parr and Fee on the corner of Dunlevy and Harris. In 1903 Dora repaired a house on East Hastings, again in 1906, and in 1913 carried out repairs to 132 E Hastings, and built a new $1,000 office/store at 134 E Hastings.

Today the two modest buildings here are from 1982 (beside the lane) and 1947.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives LGN 1241.

 

Posted September 27, 2018 by ChangingCity in Chinatown, East End, Gone

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525 Carrall Street

This 1985 ‘before’ image of a Chinatown society building would have looked very similar, although somewhat more battered, up to two years ago. Now after extensive repair and restoration work the building looks almost identical to when it was first built in 1903. Known today, and since 1923 as the Lim Sai Hor Association Building, it was first developed by Chinese scholar Kang You-wei, with financial support from leading local merchants (including Chang Toy, owner of the Sam Kee Company, who probably donated the land). It was the Vancouver home to the Chinese Empire Reform Association, an important Chinese-Canadian pre-Revolutionary association.

Kang You-wei arrived in Victoria in 1899 as a political refugee who escaped a death sentence in China after he supported the Guangxu Emperor’s short-lived reforms aimed at modernizing Chinese political, economic, military and educational systems. The Emperor’s aunt, the Empress Dowager Cixi, was opposed to modernizing the country and she carried out a coup d’etat three months after the reforms were announced, placing the Emperor under house arrest.

Kang You-wei hoped to raise support from American and British governments to restore the Emperor and the reformist movement, but he was barred from entering the United States due to the Chinese Exclusion Act and received little assistance from the British government. He was, however, warmly received by Chinese communities in Victoria, Vancouver, and New Westminster. Kang founded the Chinese Empire Reform Association (CERA) in Victoria on 20 July 1899. This organization was also known as the Society to Protect the Emperor, or the Baohuanghui. One of their first pieces of business was to send a birthday telegram to the Empress Dowager which started: “Birthday congratulations. We request your abdication.” In 1903 Kang’s equally famous associate, Liang Qichao, laid the cornerstone of this $30,000 building.

Oddly, the original architect appears not to be known, although in 1914 W H Chow designed $2,000 of repairs to the building. It appears to have been built as two separate structures, with the Shanghai Alley part built separately and then linked. The original façade elements of the building that were recently replaced could have been removed when Lim Sai Hor Kow Mock Benevolent Association purchased and renovated the building in 1944-45. The family association for ‘Lim’ Chinese named members was established in Vancouver in 1923, although dating back to 1908 in Victoria. When the Association bought the building they paid just $10,250, and raised $26,000 by issuing shares to members to pay for the building and the renovations. There was a retail unit on the main floor, leased out; 18 rooms on the second floor, and the meeting room and offices of the organization on the top floor as well as another 8 rooms, which like the second floor rooms were leased to members as living space.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 790-2408

98 East Pender Street

We looked at the history of this building in an earlier post. In a later incarnation it became the Mandarin Gardens, but by 1920 it was supposedly the home of W K Chop Suey, according to the details of this Vancouver Public Library image. Actually, W K Chop Suey only appeared here in the 1922 street directory, managed by David Lee, so the image may date from after 1920, or it’s possible that the directory compilers were slow to catch the new business. It’s certainly from before 1924 when W K Chop Suey (which occupied the upper floor) had closed. Another restaurant appeared in 1927 at 127 East Pender as the WK Oriental Gardens, with a new company capitalized at $10,000 run by Harold and Wilbert Lim.

David Lee had arrived in Canada in 1911, and had been born in China in 1892, and in 1921 had two roomers living in his home in the 700 block of East Pender. He was listed as a restaurant labourer, so the promotion to manager a year later was a significant step up.

We noted in the earlier post that the $20,000 development was designed by E E Blackmore for Mrs Chance Wong Co, but that we couldn’t trace who that was. The contractor was Edgar Wilson, and we’ve traced another 1919 permit for work on the building that was owned by ‘Mrs Chance Wong Lo’, with the work designed and built by Yuen Wong. The same builder also worked on the adjacent building, which was owned by Lau Yip Wong, with Fong Wong running a jewellery store there. He was also listed as owner of this building when it was repaired in 1920. Despite the local Caucasian architect, the design borrowed from the vernacular Pearl River Delta architecture from Guangdong province that many Vancouver Chinatown buildings display.

The 1921 census helps clarify who the developer probably was. Fong Wong lived at this address (as 92 E Pender) with his wife, Chan Shee. They had both arrived in 1906, and had three sons and a daughter, all born in BC and aged between five and eight. A cousin and four lodgers also lived with them. Fong was a merchant, dealing in jewellery, and we wondered if there was a business reason why his wife was listed as the developer of the building, or whether she was in business in her own right. A 1931 court case clarified that Chansee Fong Wong was an active participant in the management of property in Chinatown. In 1927 she leased 143 East Pender, a second floor premises, to Wong Fon Hong, who operated the International Chop Suey restaurant there. The rent was $18,000 a year, and by mid 1929 the restaurant owed 2 months payments. She hired baliffs to take over the premises, and the case revolved around the question of whether the lessee gave up the property, or should have been allowed to make the late payments and continue in business. In a split decision, the judges ruled that “When giving up the keys at three o’clock in the morning, the lessees said ‘Here are the keys, we cannot carry on’.”

In the early 1950s the building was demolished, and became part of an extended Columbia Street, which until then had stopped at Pender.

Posted June 25, 2018 by ChangingCity in Chinatown, Gone

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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

 

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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