Archive for the ‘Chinatown’ Category

200 East Pender Street

Despite some liberties taken with the cornice, which these days (and in our 1978 image) has a fake Chinese pantile affair, this is a genuinely old building in today’s Chinatown. When it was first built in 1895, it was a main street (called Westminster Avenue) – not Main Street, and with almost no Chinese businesses. Chinatown was located to the west of here, and expanded eastwards later. Here it is in a 1910 Vancouver Public Library image, before the tiles were added, but around the time when Chinese tenants started to move into the area. The Mon Sun Barbershop was here for over seventy years, and the King Hong Co. Chop Suey House was also here for a long period. The upper floors were used for lodging rooms, professional offices, and the meeting rooms of a Chinese musical society. Among the early professional tenants was Dr. J. Scott Conklin, remembered as a ‘noted B.C. Medical pioneer’.

It was built by James Borland, who was originally from Ontario, arriving in Vancouver around 1891 He started as a builder with two houses built in 1892 – both still standing. He ended up developing a property empire, including several hotels and other commercial investments. For this project (when he was still shown as a plasterer in the street directory) he might have partnered with James Ironside, who built the next door building to the south. He won the contract to plaster the new Mount Pleasant school in 1892. Most buildings along Westminster Avenue were half the depth of the lot, with a rear yard.  In 1907, Borland extended the building east along Pender Street to the lane. In 1919 he sold it to Chinese owners, but the tiled element wasn’t added until 1970. Today there’s an accountant’s office upstairs, and Ten Ren Tea and Ginseng moved from a few doors away to occupy the main floor.

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Posted May 2, 2019 by ChangingCity in Chinatown

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East Pender Street – 100 block, south side

While parts of Chinatown (including these buildings) are seeing change to the businesses occupying the main floor retail units, the bricks and mortar have remained unchanged for several decades. The exact date for the image is unknown – it’s said to have been taken between 1960 and 1980. In the background, across the street, the sign for the Marco Polo Club is visible. It was demolished in 1983, and opened at the end of 1964, so we can narrow the date a bit, and our best guess is the early 1970s – possibly 1972.

The most westerly building on the block (on the right) is the Sun Ah Hotel, home to the Ho Ho Restaurant (more recently Foo’s Ho Ho, currently being refurbished). It was designed for Chinese merchant Loo Gee Wing by R T Perry and R A Nicholais, and completed in 1911. The European style of architecture has no obvious reference to Chinatown, even though the client was a prominent Chinese merchant and property developer. There was an earlier building on the site, with Chinese merchants based here from before the turn of the 20th century (when the street was still Dupont Street). The Lung Kong Tien Yee Association acquired the building in 1926, and today it’s an Single Room Occupancy dwelling.

Several of the city’s ‘working ladies’ had houses in this location in the late 1890s, including Bilcox McDonald and Gabrielle Delisle. In 1909 the middle building in the group was constructed, replacing one of the houses. It was a very different style – occupied by The Chinese Benevolent Association. In the first half of the 20th century this was the most important organization in Chinatown. We don’t have an identified architect for the building, started in 1908 and supervised by Chinese merchant Yip Sang. In 1909 Michael O’Keefe was hired at a cost of $10,000 to design and complete the Chinese Hall here, and he had designed and built other properties for Yip Sang’s Wing Sang Company in the early 1900s. The imposing council hall featured a shrine to Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, and the room was furnished with elaborately carved armchairs from the Qing Dynasty. In the 1970s, the CBA lost most of its influence. It has since been restructured and has once again become an important organization in the Vancouver Chinese community.

It housed an organization with deep roots in China. It evolved from the Hongmen movement, which is said to have originated as a group opposed to Manchu rule. In 1910 and 1911, the organization, in their old Vancouver headquarters at Pender and Carrall streets, hid Dr. Sun Yat-Sen from the agents of the imperial Manchu government. The organization is also said to have mortgaged its previous building with the proceeds going to help pay for the Chinese revolution of 1911. Today, the Chinese Freemasons in Vancouver through the Dart Coon Club own and administer this and another building on Pender Street, and two non-profit housing projects.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-473

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Keefer and Main Street – nw corner

This two storey building was replaced in 2015 with a 10 storey condo building. However, the building that was demolished for the new condos had been effectively rebuilt in the late 1970s as a commercial building so there was no loss of any heritage – or even old – buildings. We looked at an image of that 1978 building, and some of the history of the older building (seen here) in an earlier post. (There’s another from 1979 below). Our 1970 image shows that before it was redeveloped the Hotel Mayo was operating here, promising (rather unconvincingly), ‘modern furnishings’. It had been the National Rooms in the 1940s and before that the Winnipeg Rooming House, appearing for the first time in a street directory in 1906.

The original developer may have been J J Crane. He certainly owned the building for many years, paying for several repairs and alterations to the premises from 1912 into 1920s. He apparently also built on the block to the south of here in 1904. (He hired local builder and developer Daniel McPhalen as architect and builder on that project, and that might have been true here as well. Indeed, it’s just possible that the clerk identified the wrong location for the 1904 permit, in which case Mr. McPhalen would definitely have been the builder).

That year John J Crane was listed as a canneryman, living on Keefer Street, where he had lived since 1891 In 1890 he was manager of the Point Garry Cannery Company in Steveston, and in 1894 the Steveston Canning Co. By 1900 he was running the United Cannery there, and had become a shareholder in the company. When a disgruntled fishing union leader attempted to sue the cannery for damages in a long-running dispute over the price paid for fish, J J Crane was identifed as the head of the cannery. (The court case was unsuccessful.)

Mr. Crane was born in Ireland, and by the time the 1911 census rolled around he had moved to 1st Avenue, (to the $3,000 home he had commissioned in 1908) where he was shown as aged 60, having arrived in Canada in 1880. (In 1901 he had only admitted to being 46). He lived with his 42 year old American born wife, their seven children (aged from 19 to 7) and a domestic servant. One son, Edwin, had already left home, and another, Victor, had died aged 13 in 1909. Mr. Crane’s occupation was described as ‘gentleman’, and it looks like he had retired from the cannery business when he moved to his new house.

He seems to have spent his retirement active in real estate. A 1910 newspaper advertisement identified him as selling land he had previously acquired at ‘a nice round profit’. (In 1918 his home was struck by lightning, which created two holes in the roof, but no other damage.) John Joseph Crane moved home to West King Edward Avenue in the early 1930s, where he died in 1935, aged 85, although his widow, Agnes, stayed on in their home.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 447-308 and CVA 780-463

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Posted January 7, 2019 by ChangingCity in Chinatown, Gone

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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

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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.

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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

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