Archive for the ‘Michael O’Keefe’ 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