Archive for the ‘Lee Kee’ Tag

East Pender Street – 200 block, north side

This view of Chinatown dates from 1972. It’s only down the street that things have changed (with a new building hidden by the street trees). At this end the buildings are the same – although there was more activity fifty years ago than there is today, and more businesses have closed now that the COVID pandemic has affected the area.

Closest to us on the right is the East Hotel. It was designed by S B Birds for Lee Kee, a Chinese merchant, and opened in 1912 as the Hotel Reco. Beyond it down the hill are two 25 foot wide buildings; BC Assessment think 279 E Pender was built in 1928, although the permit is from 1922, when Bedford Davidson was hired by Baxter and Wright to build the $4,500 investment. 275 is from 1949, although its design suggests it’s older. The building that was here earlier was probably part of Carl (or Charles) Schwan’s estate; a hotel owner and part of a prominent family of bar and hotel keepers, he died in 1915. He owned a building a little further to the west, 265 E Pender, in 1914. The 1972 image shows that it had started life as a house, with a shop front added when Dupont Street (as it was then) changed from a residential to a commercial street. There was also a house on 269 E Pender, the lot with a single storey retail unit in 1972. Chinese merchant ‘Sam Kee’ (the name of the company run by Chang Toy) owned 275 E Pender in 1924.

Beyond those stores are two more narrow buildings redeveloped in the 1970s. We looked at them in an earlier post – they were developed in the period where new structures were adding ‘Chinese’ design elements like green glazed tiles.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-448


Posted 10 May 2021 by ChangingCity in Altered, East End

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East Hotel – Gore and Pender

East Hotel

The East Hotel started life as the Hotel Reco in 1912. The architect was S B Birds, who it is fair to say is not known for his use of an abundance of decoration on the buildings he designed. The owner was Lee Kee, a Chinese merchant who headed the Lee Yuen (or Lee Yune) Company, one of the more affluent businesses in Chinatown, and the hotel was run by Mrs Margaret L Kennedy. Mrs Kennedy had previously run the Russell Rooms on East Pender and in 1911 was living there with her three sons and her sister, Lily Mathews who worked as a waitress in a hotel. The sisters were born in Ontario, as was her 18 year old son, Earle. Her middle son, John, was born in Alberta 15 years earlier, and her 12 year old, Cyril, was born in BC. The hotel was built almost exactly at the same time as the Hotel Stratford across the street.

In the years before the hotel was built Lee Yune operated an opium factory on Market Alley, and were one of the two opium companies compensated for damages in the 1908 riot. (Their letterhead described their company as ‘Manufacturers of the Celebrated “E Y” Brand Opium). The company also imported and exported goods, and were involved in labour contracting. They were one of the four most successful businesses in Chinatown. Once McKenzie King successfully closed the opium manufacturing operation Lee Kee continued in business, including developing this $65,000 building.

There were various businesses on the ground floor including the H Wong Agencies; the upper floors provided housing (as it still does today). Sing Sam ran a store in the building, hiring Braunton and Leibert to design the store in 1913, and in 1915 another permit for repairs said the owner was called O’Connor and Sam Sing was the tenant. In 1915 one of the building’s tenants was the Halibut Fisherman’s Union, and in the 1920s the same location was the home to the Chinese Methodist Kindergarten. In 1930 the Little Rose Confectionery store was run by Gow Gooey and Miss L Hong. In 1939 the name of the hotel changes to the Hotel East and Jack Matsui was manager. (Japanese businesses had been in the building for several years before this). In 1950 the name sequence had switched to East Hotel as it is today, and Chong N Low was in charge. Our 1972 picture shows the building is much as today – except today the street trees hide the building.

Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-452