Archive for the ‘Loo Gee Wing’ Tag

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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Abbott Mansions – West Hastings and Abbott se

Abbott & Hastings

This solid-looking structure dates back to 1909, and was designed by Hooper and Watkins for Song Mong Lin Co, (a company owned by Mong Wing, a Chinese housewife). It was altered in 1941, when Townley and Matheson refitted it for the Imperial Bank of Canada; Fred Townley had initially designed alterations for the bank here in 1919. These days the 5-storey structure has 70 SRO rooms, but it started life as an office building known as the Loo Building. Mong Wing was married to a very successful Chinese merchant Loo Gee Wing, so her development of the building was almost certainly at his behest. We’ve written a great deal about Loo Gee Wing elsewhere; as far as we can tell he started his business life in San Francisco, moved on to Victoria (where he was said to be the second wealthiest private landowner after the Hudson Bay Company) and then to Vancouver, where he developed extensive business interests including a number of properties.

We think he moved to Vancouver not long before this building was completed: he was still living in Victoria in 1907. This building cost $80,000 to build; the contractors, the National Construction Company, got into financial difficulties, and their subcontractors, Coughlin Brothers, went after the owners to get the $1,700 they were owed. When they tried to get payment, they discovered that the property had changed hands, and Loo Gee Wing was now the owner, and he argued the builders lien didn’t apply to him. The judge in the case was not sympathetic to this view: “The facts are that the defendant Mong Lin, wife of Leo Gee Wing, was the registered owner of the property at the time the contract was entered into by her with the codefendant, and she so continues to the present time. I strongly suspect that the transfer of the property to her husband was a piece of Oriental jugglery perpetuated in order to embarrass lien holders.”

When it opened, the Loo Building had dozens of companies taking space: it’s not a big building, so they must have each occupied modest offices. As well as a number of real estate companies were the Canadian Freight Association, several physicians including Dr Dyer, the Vancouver Fiber Co, the Beaver Realty Co and W A Cumyow, the city’s most important Chinese interpreter. Up on the third floor were a chiropodist and a Corsetiere, an optician and an osteopath alongside timber agents and land agents. On the fourth were building contractors Hemphill Bros, the Hardman Hat Co and the Vancouver Financial Corp Ltd along with the Union Express, City Express and Diamond Express. Apart from W A Cumyow they appear to be Anglo businesses in a Chinese-owned office building.

By 1920 the building had become exclusively residential. It had been acquired by the London, British & North America Co, who hired W J Northcott to make alterations. An advertisement in the Daily World announced the change, offering two-room suites, disappearing beds and well furnished modern conveniences for housekeeping; “elevator, respectable, reasonable rates”. It attracted some important people in the city; Basil Pantages, manager of the Pantages theatre lived here; Dr Martin Kroeger, managing director of Vancouver X-Ray Institute lived on the third floor; George S Sellers of the Cedar Cottage Painting Co on the second floor.

By 1935, when Wilfred Minto was managing the premises they were known as Abbott Mansions. Just selecting the surnames starting with the first two letters of the alphabet we find James and Harry Almas of the Almas Coal and Refrigerated Fruit Stand lived here; (a unique and unexpected mixture), P J Beaudreault, a carpenter and his wife Deliah, Jake Biket, a waiter and his wife Viola, Alfred Brett, a trucker with the CNR and his wife Kathleen, R J Brooks, an assembler with the Ford Motor Co and Elsie and Mark Butcher – Elsie was a stenographer. Somebody listed as Aug Dandruff lived here too – sadly, we don’t know if they were a hairdresser. F Glen Mitchell lived here with his wife; he was manager of the Piggly Wiggly on Denman Street. There were two waitresses living here, one from the New Good Eats Cafe, and one from the Cairo Cafe. Dr. Henry Powell had his consulting rooms in the building on Abbott Street.

In 1955, the last year we have a street directory for, the Mansions were owned by the Yorkshire Corporation. There were still plenty of working people living here: a glove cutter; Anne Bowes who was cashier at the Pall Mall Café; a fireman; William Cooper, a tailor; a candy packer for Nabob Foods and Magda Curie, a waitress at Eatons. Unlike in earlier years quite a few residents were retired; several of the residents were widows.

By the early 90s the residents were poorer; the building more run-down. Many residents had health problems. Now run by the Central City Foundation, it offers 70 rooms to Downtown Eastside residents in one of the better-run SRO buildings.

Image Source City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1399-37

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East Pender and Columbia – north west corner

E Pender & Columbia nw

With the attention that Chinatown is receiving at the moment as a few new condo developments replace vacant sites or failed 70s malls and a shuttered casino, no doubt any proposal to redevelop this corner would bring critics out lamenting the loss of another heritage building. Our 1978 (or so) image shows that the red brick structure that’s there today – or at least the exterior – isn’t a heritage building, it’s a rebuild of an older property. Not only that, it shows that in the past Chinatown merchants weren’t nearly as concerned about the Chinese character of Chinatown. The occupants of the building on the corner, C S importers Co Ltd, and the retail store, Trans-Nation Emporium Ltd adopted a distinctly Art Deco Moderne theme to their store decoration, with chrome lettering on a black shiny background and a chrome canopy over the sidewalk. The building dates back to 1904, when Loo Gee Wing, the Chinese merchant who developed throughout Chinatown and beyond, hired Emil Guenther to design the $21,000 building. No doubt Mr Guenther would have been able to identify his building in the 1970s, although the style of decoration might have surprised him. Mr Guenther’s history is apparently hard to confirm due to his name changing and partner hopping, but he was probably German who practiced across the US before settling in Vancouver.

Next door is an almost unchanged Chinatown heritage structure. Well, unchanged since 1926, when the third floor was added. H H Simmonds designed the recessed balcony addition, a perfect example of a non-Chinese architect interpreting Chinese design for a Chinese client. In fact, Simmonds was Australian. The architectural irony is that the original building was in the Italianate style (designed by a Chinese architect). When it was built in 1911 it had two storeys, designed by W H Chow for Lang Kwan and built by R A McCoullough for $9,500. Campbell and Dawson were recorded as the architects because theoretically Chow, being Chinese, wasn’t allowed to practice as an architect, although he seems to have circumnavigated that situation on a number of occasions, including 1915 when he was the architect for $400 of alterations to the building for owner Chong Yuen. In the 1920s it became home to the Cheng Wing Yeong Tong Society.

Next door to that is another substantial building (for the time) that had a similar appearance to many of the other commercial buildings built at the turn of the 20th Century in the immediate area. We’re pretty certain the developer was Yip Sang, in 1908, (and the closest in design looks like W T Whiteway’s design for Yip’s Wing Sang Company, on the corner of Carrall Street, and built in 1902). Hing Sing was shown as owner when he obtained permits for $1,000 of alterations in 1909, Lim Duck Chew was listed as an owner in the same year for an address at the western end of the block, Fong Sun was listed as the owner who added partitions in 1910, and Jim Lin in 1916 altered the store front, and also made alterations to the western end of the building in 1917 – but they could all be tenants. It was demolished in the 1990s after a fire, and a new project stalled, and was eventually replaced in 2008 by ‘East’, a Walter Francl designed 6-storey condo building over two retail stores that we saw better in an earlier look at this block looking the other way.

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Posted February 26, 2015 by ChangingCity in Altered, Chinatown, East End

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123 East Pender Street

Wong's

It would seem that this building was originally built in 1908, although we don’t know who designed it. It’s attributed to W H Chow – but we haven’t found anything to confirm that, although he did design the 1920 alterations.

The first buildings on this site were two houses, addressed as 117 and 119 Dupont Street. They were on the site before 1901 – in 1895 the first time they appeared in the street directory they were occupied by Miss Annie Hood and Miss E Johnson. The ladies’ profession was one of the reasons the street name was switched from Dupont to Princess in 1898, once they’d been persuaded to move on.

A little later the name switched again, this time to East Pender, and in 1908 this location appears as ‘New Block’ and a year later a series of Chinese businesses had opened their doors, including Charlie Won & Co who sold cigars and fruits, and Yuen Sang Co listed as Chinese merchants. When it was first built this really wasn’t a Chinese-styled building at all, although it was in the heart of Chinatown, and all the tenants over the years were Chinese. That was the rule – not the exception – in design terms; there were no ‘Chinese’ style balconies on any Chinatown buildings built before 1900, and relatively few before 1910.

There’s a permit to David Lew for 1910 to build a brick building on this site, but only for $550 – so possibly an outbuilding on Market Alley (at the back of the building). In the same year Loo Gee Wing, a very active Chinese developer also obtained a permit for changes to an office in the building. David Lew knew Loo Gee Wing – he had been his secretary from 1901 to 1905, having had a Canadian education in his teens, and probably training as a lawyer (although being Chinese he wasn’t permitted to practice law). Given how much property he owned nearby, it’s entirely reasonable to think Mr Loo might have been the developer of the building in 1908. (Mr Lew became an important Chinatown interpreter; he represented all the Chinese traders who sought compensation in the 1908 hearing chaired by McKenzie King. His death in 1924 was dramatic; he was shot to death outside 5 West Hastings in a professional ‘hit’ that was never solved.)

By 1913 a Mr. Hamilton was the owner of the building. F Hamilton hired C Ting to make repairs in 1913. (There’s another permit for 1914 when W H Chow designed repairs for Quang Sang & Co at 125 1/2), and then a series of further repairs for owners identified as F J Hamilton in 1915 for 125 (again by W H Chow), repairs designed and built by Toy Get for ‘Hamilton’ in 1916, for M Hamilton in 1917 and N Hamilton in 1918. Finally W F Hamilton made repairs to 121 E Pender in 1917.

We assume all these various Hamiltons were really Frank Hamilton, who is said to be shown in the picture. Frank is elusive – various Francis and Frank Hamiltons come and go, but in 1915 a Frank J Hamilton was living in an apartment in Nicola Street. There’s a picture of a new 1908 house on Burrard Street identified as belonging to Francis J Hamilton, and another (or the same) Frank Hamilton was a resident in Cedar Cottage in South Vancouver, working for the Vancouver Creamery Co.

Around 1920 the building was acquired by new owners. The elaborate balconies were added in 1921 when a $14,000 reconstruction of the upper part of the building took place. The top floor of the 1908 building was removed, but the store front looks as if it’s still the original 1908 millwork. The architects were G L Southwell and J A Radford – although neither were well-known architects; Southwell was a draughtsman (wrongly identified as Southall on the permit) and Radford was frequently employed by the Vancouver Sun to illustrate articles and prepare reviews of exhibitions. Their clients were one of Chinatown’s family associations, the Wong Kung Har Tong (the Wong family association). A 1920 permit had been submitted by W H Chow to add an extra floor to the building. Although he was highly competent, and very experienced, Chow was refused admission to the Architect’s Institute, so it’s quite possible that the Radford and Southwell design was really his. There were new meeting rooms behind recessed balconies, a key feature of the later Chinatown architectural style.

Other community associations also came to be associated with the building including the Chinese Community Club and the Hai Fung Association. They show the evolution of the role of community associations in Chinatown; the Hai Fung Association is a more recent youth organization established independently of the older place and surname associations. Hai Fung attracted new immigrants who brought with them new ideas about the meaning of being Chinese in Canada, challenging the established tongs.

The Mon Keang School was established on the third floor in 1925, teaching the Chinese language and customs to the tusheng, or children of overseas Chinese born in Canada. This reflected the value placed on education in perpetuating Chinese culture, and because it gave Canadian-born children the skills required to function successfully in a predominantly Chinese-speaking environment.

Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu P717

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West Pender Street – 100 Block (1)

100 block W Pender n sideHere’s an image of the north side of West Pender looking west from Abbott in 1981. The biggest change is the addition of Pendera, a non-market housing project designed by Davidson & Yuen and built in 1989. We saw it when we looked at the history of the building that has been replaced since. That’s the building used by The News Advertiser and then The Vancouver Sun at 137 West Pender. Closer to us is the Duncan Building which the Statement of Significance for its heritage value says was ‘first-class, modern and fireproof when it first opened, with retail stores on the ground floor.’ They attribute the design to H L Stevens, a Vancouver architect. As with many heritage statements, this was somewhat incorrect. H L Stevens were based in New York, although they had offices in Chicago and San Francisco, and briefly in Vancouver. Howard J Duncan, who developed the building, was a lawyer (he represented the Japanese business community when Mackenzie King investigated the 1907 riot), and he entered a frantic market with unfortunate consequences. With a collapse in demand due to a recession in 1913 the building ended up in foreclosure and was bought by The London & British North America Company Ltd., a real estate and financial firm, in 1916.

It was renamed as The Shelly Building when it was bought in 1925 by Cora Shelly. Her husband, William Curtis Shelly was an entrepreneur and philanthropist, who the Heritage Statement credits with founding many businesses, including Home Oil, Pioneer Timber, Canada Grain Export, Nanaimo Sawmills, Canadian Bakeries, and Shelly Bakeries. He was a Vancouver City alderman and Park Board chairman, playing an important role in the development of the City’s beaches. He also served as Minister of Finance in the Tolmie provincial government in the late 1920s and 1930s.

On the corner is the Lotus Hotel – unusual for bearing the same name that it was originally given back in 1912. It was designed by A J Bird in 1912 and built by R McLean and Son for Thomas Matthews at a cost of $95,000. He was an Irishman who moved to Ontario initially and then to BC in 1884. He settled first in Victoria, arriving in Vancouver a month before the city burned to the ground. He worked as a tailor/clerk in a clothing store, but invested successfully in real estate. The Lotus was a joint venture with Loo Gee Wing who often worked with a white partner to avoid hostility to his business interests outside Chinatown (which were extensive). Today the Lotus is an SRO Hotel, recently refurbished, and the Shelly Building is one of several hundred-year old office buildings still in demand in the city’s Downtown.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 779-E16.15

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East Pender Street – unit block (1)

Pender & Carrall east

We’ve seen the building on the left of this 1929 image in an earlier post – it’s the Wing Sang building developed over several years by Yip Sang’s company. We’re about half way up the block between Carrall and Columbia, looking east. Next door was a building that we haven’t been able to identify. It was there in 1903, and there were alterations in 1909 carried out by Duck Chew Lim, and more by Fong Lim in 1915 and Jim Lim in 1917. In 2008 a new building was completed; ‘East’, a 22 unit condo project over retail, designed by Walter Francl Architects.

Beyond that, in 1911, Campbell and Dawson were hired by Lang Kwan to build a $9,500 building that’s still standing today, albeit very much changed. In 1915 W H Chow apparently signed the drawings for the building that was eventually built. In the 1920s it became the home of the Cheng Wing Yeong Tong Society Building. H H Simmonds designed the third floor addition, completed in 1926 to create the Tong headquarters with a recessed balcony and pediment-capped parapet. It was home to the Ho Inn chop suey house in the early 1970, (not to be confused with the Ho Ho), was damaged, and rebuilt after a fire in 1991.

The two storey building beyond it was designed by Emil Guenther for Loo Gee Wing, another of Chinatown’s merchant developers in 1904. It’s still standing, although it’s been changed. Across Columbia Street was the Great Northern Hotel (built as the Avenue Hotel), and also altered.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-2463

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