Archive for the ‘Chinatown’ Category

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

Canton Alley

This narrow Chinatown alley was, on some maps, Canton Street. It ran south from West Pender, which is where the buildings in the pictures are addressed to. We’ve seen the 1912 building (designed by J G Price) that fronted Pender until 1948, but this is an earlier building. The 2-storey building was developed by the Wing Sang Company in 1903, cost $10,000 and was designed by ‘Mr. O’Keefe’. Michael O’Keefe wasn’t really an architect, he was mostly a builder, but he was willing to design buildings for Chinese owners to build themselves. He didn’t even live in Vancouver; the only likely M O’Keefe we’ve found was a carpenter, and later a builder, living in Victoria.

Canton Alley, through the archway, was apparently developed in 1904, was a courtyard enclosed by two parallel rows of buildings running south from Pender Street. The permit for the construction describes a $50,000 project for ‘Five separate buildings on same ground’ on ‘CPR ground W of Carrall & S of Pender & N of Keefer Chinatown’, also designed by Mr. O’Keefe, but built by Yip Sang & Co. (Yip Sang was the anglicized name of the owner of the Wing Sang Company, and some early records switch ‘Yip’ and ‘Wing’). The premises were damaged in the 1907 anti-Asian riots, and in the subsequent hearings Wing Sang was described as owning half the buildings here. That was technically accurate, but overlooked the fact that the Lun Yick Co, a wholly owned Wing Sang subsidiary also owned property. Wing Sang may have been the lead owner with other Chinese merchants; although rivals in business, more expensive and ambitious transactions were often carried out by a consortium of owners. In 1911 several buildings were damaged by fire, and there were several buildings reconstructed on Canton Alley, and the entire Pender block was redeveloped as a six storey rooming house.

Canton Alley very quickly gained a reputation – and not a good one. The narrow space was home to over 500 residents, almost all men, packed in to small rooms with bunk beds. There was effectively an entire town centre in the alley, with grocers and general stores, restaurants, tailors, barbers, an employment agency and an umbrella repairer. In 1905 readers throughout North America could read about a dispute between partners in a Canton Alley tailoring business that led to two deaths. A row between two partners led to one owner, who wanted to split the partnership (and be paid out) shooting first the son of his partner, then killing the partner and then himself. The local press were happy to report the local police opinions. “Looks like a desperate dope fiend and crank,” observed Detective Waddell as he surveyed the hatchet-like face and glazed eyes of the murderer”.

In 1906, as the police closed down the nearby Dupont Street brothels, the Daily World reported that some of the women were moving to rooms in Canton Alley. Sure enough, by the end of the year police were raiding and arresting the ladies. “Celestlne Brown was named as the keeper, and Merle Thomas and Lena Hamilton as assistants”

The police interest in the ladies continued into 1907. Another raid was referenced in the Daily World, and suggested that 25 women were living in the alley. Belle Walker was fined $50 three days later, with a note adding “the police seem determined to put a stop to other than Chinese women living in the Chinese quarter”. Yip Sang was unhappy that his leaseholders were sub-letting their premises, but it was reported that a meeting at the Empire Reform Association got so heated that the landlords had to have a police escort to safely leave the meeting.

At the end of the year the intrepid Police Officer Latimer apprehended Fred Symonds in a Canton Alley house; he was wanted for beating a woman in the alley and stealing $50, using a ‘sandbag’ as a weapon – actually a length of garden hose with a iron bolt inserted. Attempting to escape arrest by using the weapon on the policeman added a charge of assault on an officer for the Ottawa-born Symonds.

Several assaults, sometimes involving firearms, were reported, almost always involving a gambling game. An opium den was raided in 1905, although the production of the drug in an adjacent building was a legal business at that time. Later raids through the 1910s, 20s and 30s for the same reason were taken more seriously, as the processing of opium was now illegal as well. In 1909 another sensational story filled the press, and was reported in other cities. A complex story of attempted murder and suicide saw Canton Alley’s illegal gambling under scrutiny after a stabbing nearly killed a would-be informer. He was apparently seeking payment to not tell the authorities about the death of another Chinese resident, a laundryman from Seymour Street who lost heavily at a game in Canton Alley, and refused time to repay his debts, chose suicide using opium. The newspaper in passing mentions that his was the third death from opium poisoning in three weeks.

Things seem to have quietened down once the buildings were rebuilt after several significant fires. There are reports of theft, a Chinaman was found shot dead, presumed murdered, but as no-one heard the shots that killed him no investigation seems to have been considered necessary. When the Daily World was reporting that a store holder was fined $10 for selling pears not properly marked under the Fruit Market Act (in 1912), then serious crime would seem to have slowed. In 1914 sacks of flour were stolen. Gambling and opium raids were frequent, and carried out with mixed success. (Several senior police officers found other employment over the years, having been accused of accepting bribes to turn a blind eye to illegal operations).

The Chinese population of the city fell after the 1923 Chinese Immigration Act (or more accurately, the Chinese Exclusion Act) forbid any Chinese immigration to Canada. Canton Alley remained occupied, although the street directory clerk couldn’t generally be bothered to record anything other than ‘Orientals’. The buildings here were eventually demolished in 1949. The site remained vacant for years, but in 1998 the CBA Manor and an adjacent building were built, designed by Joe Wai and Davidson Yuen Simpson. The 4-storey social services centre run by SUCCESS recreates the alley entrance as an entrance to a gated courtyard, (just as Canton Alley was after the 1907 riots).

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 689-56.

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Posted 8 October 2020 by ChangingCity in Chinatown, Gone

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Shanghai Alley

Shanghai Alley is more of a street than an alley, just as it was in 1944 when this Vancouver Public Library picture was shot. However, the wall of almost identical buildings on the east side has been lost; now there’s a gap where two buildings have been demolished. If you read many histories of this area you’ll see that this street and Canton Alley to the west were the core of the 1880s and 1890s Chinatown area. That’s a complete fabrication; the 1889 insurance map shows there was nothing built here. The 1901 map, superimposed over the contemporary lots, shows that four buildings existed, all facing onto Carrall Street, with no Alley behind. Instead there was an open area and freight sheds to the west, parallel with the Canadian Pacific tracks than ran diagonally across the area, running from the Burrard Inlet waterfront to the freight yard and engine shed on False Creek at Yaletown. We don’t know who built those 1901 buildings, that probably obtained permits in 1900. The Alley had appeared by the 1911 Insurance map, and the buildings extended to create the frontages that can be seen in the 1944 image.

There was an earlier building on West Pender, built in 1901, but the City took it for a road widening project over a century ago, leaving owner Sam Kee with what they probably thought was a worthless six foot deep strip. In 1913 Bryan and Gillam were hired to design what is said to be the world’s shallowest building, built with a steel frame at a cost of $8,000. Sam Kee wasn’t a person; it was a company run by businessman Chang Toy. When the City moved to expropriate the site to widen Pender Street, Sam Kee instructed their lawyer to negotiate for $70,000 compensation, successfully getting the $62,000 they estimated that the site was worth. Behind it, with frontage to both Carrall Street and Shanghai Alley is one of the other three 1901 buildings. The heritage statement says it was probably built for Kwong Man Sang Co, but there’s no permit evidence to support that, although they were the company occupying the building here in 1903.

In 1906 Chinese businessman Loo Gee Wing added the taller three storey element that you can see facing Shanghai Alley. In 1914 Lee, Kar paid for alterations designed by S B Birds, for ‘club rooms’ and more work carried out by Coffin & McClennan for Lee, Thung & Lee, Kar. This was probably an investment by the Quong Yick Co. Historian Paul Yee explained how the arrangement worked. “In 1907, fifteen Chinese led by the Lee Yuen principals formed the Quong Yick Company to buy land and buildings in the heart of Chinatown. They raised $20,000 among themselves with shares ranging from $250 to $4,500 and borrowed $30,000 to be repaid over three years. The building accommodated several Chinese firms as tenants, from whom $7,770.85 in rent was collected in one year. The property was registered in the names of Lee Thung and Lee Kar, but legal certificates drawn in English were issued to every partner recording his proportional entitlement to the property.

One of the two lost buildings was owned by Chow Joy Joo and Co. who hired W F Gardiner to design alterations in 1916. The Carrall Street side of the building added a new floor in 1909 King, Foung & Co, and Ah Mew made alterations in 1914, with Chow, T. Tong hiring Way, Chow for more work in 1916, 1919 and 1920. Tai Gin owned the next building along in 1917, when Get, Toy worked on a $1,000 alteration, and there were more changes in 1919 for owner Haw Ling Hing

The building that is still standing was originally the Chinese Reform Society, built in 1903 and altered to the designs of builder/architect W H Chow in 1914. Since 1945 it has been home to the Lim Sai Hor Kow Mock Benevolent Association, (The family association for ‘Lim’ Chinese named members), who purchased and renovated the building.

There was a brief period, around 1907, when the Alley and Canton Alley became home to the city’s red-light district. Chased off Dupont Street (East Pender today, a block or two to the east of here), the madams sub-leased space in the upper floor rooms of the buildings. When the police continued to raid and prosecute the ladies, the madams moved once more, to Shore Street (also nearby), before having to move again in the early 1910s to Alexander Street, away from the main Downtown of the day, where they built a number of decorative and expensive establishments.

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Posted 25 June 2020 by ChangingCity in Chinatown, Still Standing

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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 2 May 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 Nicolais, 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 7 January 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 22 November 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 1 October 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 27 September 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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