Archive for the ‘R J MacDonald’ Tag

East Pender Street – unit block (2)


E Pender unit north alt

There has been recent commentary suggesting the new developments in Chinatown are changing its character and threatening the heritage of the area. So far that really hasn’t been true – the sites that are being redeveloped are all either replacing recent (and unimpressive) buildings, or have replaced modest older structures that were too far gone, or small, to save.

Here’s our second look at the unit block of East Pender on the north side of the street; (the first post looked at the other half of the block). Here we’re comparing 1981 and today, and if anything the street is in better condition: all the heritage buildings are still standing and almost unchanged. Up the street the Chinatown Gate has been added, and beyond it the Chatham Steel services depot has been replaced with a housing project for Chinese seniors and other community services. (The steel depot replaced Yip Sang’s much larger tenement building).

From the right, and moving west, we can see the Yue Shan Society buildings – the edge of the 2-storey building that dates back to 1889, and the 1920s design by W H Chow for the three storey structure. Between the two buildings is a narrow alley that leads to a courtyard; behind that is a third building (from around 1914) that also fronts Market Alley (running parallel to East Pender). The Yue Shan Society provides aid to immigrants from Pan Yu (Yu Shan) County, near Guangzhou, China, and have occupied these buildings since 1943.

Next door are two buildings that we featured a couple of months ago; the R J MacDonald designed Wong’s Benevolent association from 1910, and Ming Wo Cookware that we think is earlier and developed by Wong Soon King. Beyond that is the Chinese Times building, developed by Yip Sang who hired W T Whiteway to design it, (and later W H Chow designed alterations).

Image source: Peter B Clibbon



Posted 29 December 2014 by ChangingCity in Chinatown, East End, Still Standing

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23 East Pender Street

Ming Wo

The Ming Wo store location started life in Chinatown just after the street had been renamed (in 1907) from Dupont to East Pender. There was a buildings here in 1889, but the 4-storey Ming Wo building was built in 1907. It was built for Wong Soon King who headed a company that bore his name, but who also controlled opium processor and dealer Hip Tuck Lung. That company operated from the other side of the street at 4 East Pender for many years, but in 1908 they moved to 23 East Pender. Hip Tuck Lung were one of the bigger opium companies; in 1908 the local newspapers reported that William Lyon MacKenzie King was shocked to discover they made a profit of $180,000 in the previous year. (Paul Yee in Saltwater City says their gross income was reported to be $170,000). MacKenzie King was in town to settle claims for damages after 1907 anti-occidental riots, but returned to Ottawa determined to close down what he was surprised to find was a completely legal business.

Hip Tuck Lung, in 1908, were said to have been in business for 22 years (which would put the business founding close to the creation of the city in 1886). They show up as importers of opium in the 1889 street directory. Their earlier building shows up in the 1891 street directory, occupied by Miss Della Montague, one of a number of ‘ladies’ whose mostly night-time business was concentrated for a while on Dupont Street.

In 1900 ‘Wong Sing King’ was one of the founding members (and recording secretary) of the Chinese Empire Reform Association, a charitable body whose intent, in part, was to be achieved “by promoting and encouraging the general education of the Chinese peoples in the principles of British constitutional government”. He stayed in the city for many years. In 1911 Mrs Wong Song King was detained for two weeks at William Head after a crew member on her cruise from the Orient on the Empress of India contracted smallpox.

The ‘official’ version of this building says it was designed in 1913 by W H Chow for Wong Soon King. There is a permit for $3,000 of alterations to the building that year, but Mr. Chow isn’t mentioned; Wong Soon King is owner, architect and builder. There’s another permit a year later; here W H Chow was the architect for a $4,000 office and store at 23 East Pender for C S Shue, who was also the builder. Then in 1915 there was another alteration, designed by Lee Hing for Wong Sim King for $2,000 of changes to a restaurant. That would be the Kong Hong Low restaurant at 23 1/2 East Pender.

This is a confusing set of permits: we know Wong Soon King owned the property, and clearly made alterations both in 1913 and 1915. So why would a different owner apparently build the building at almost the same time as these alterations? The permit doesn’t seem big enough to pay for the building either: in 1910 the building to the right, (on a similar scale) 29 East Pender was designed by R J MacDonald for ‘Su, Lee Wo Co’ and cost $19,000. That might be See Lee Wo, who sold general merchandise, although the company operating here in 1910 were Lee On and Co, who sold dry goods, and were also at 45 East Pender.

One possible explanation is that the W H Chow permit was for 93 East Pender – W H Chow made some minor amendments to a property owned by C S Shue at that address early in 1914. He also carried out work at 27 East Pender. In 1914 the owners Yuen, Yuen & Co hired W H Chow to carry out $1,000 of repairs. They were tea and rice merchants.

The 1907 development of this building has been dug out of newspaper reports. Wong Soon King built it at a cost of $15,000, but the application was by his business, Hip Tuck Lung, mostly concerned with processing opium (as noted above). There’s no architect mentioned associated with the project. These new premises had a total of 13 ‘ovens’ operating – one of the largest opium processing businesses on the west coast, with product intended for the Chinese market, despite the fact that the Empress of China had made opium use and processing illegal. The opium processing ceased after new laws changed its status by 1910. In 1915 the Hong Kong Club were at 23, and in 1917 Ming Wo moved in to sell cookware – a business still there until 2020, when the business owner retired.

Next door 27 East Pender was one of the earliest ‘Chinese’ styled building in Chinatown. Before that most Chinatown buildings could have been anywhere in the city. The Chinese Benevolent Association Building built in 1909 was the first with the upper floors featuring recessed balconies and building-wide glazing facing the street. This was a little later in 1910 (and completed in 1911), designed by a western architect, Robert J MacDonald, to reflect local preferences. Hon Hsing, a Chinese martial arts school, was established here in 1938, perhaps the earliest in Canada. In 2014 there was a store that reflects the changing face of Chinatown; Bombast is a manufacturer of contemporary furniture.

Our photograph dates from 1981, from a collection we have recently been given access to. We look forward to featuring several more from the same source.

Image source: Peter B Clibbon


The Glasgow Hotel – 503 Main Street

If the street directories are to believed, the Glasgow Hotel started life as 301 Westminster Avenue and ended it as 503 Main Street only 24 years later. It wasn’t moved – it’s just that the street was both renamed and renumbered in the intervening period (as was the cross street, from Dupont to East Pender).

There’s nothing really remarkable about the Glasgow – it doesn’t feature in any contemporary historical material, but it was a substantial building that was redeveloped in relatively short order. A building for this location was designed by Mallandaine and Sansom for a real estate broker called Frank Granville, who had an office on Cordova Street and lived about a block away on Gore Street. While a ‘Granville Block’ was reported in 1899 in the Daily World, no building of that name shows up subsequently.

Instead the water permit for the Glasgow Hotel was taken out by M Costello in May 1889 (two years before the photo was taken). This would be Michael Costello, a former Union soldier in the American Civil War who had built the Eagle Hotel a little further south by the False Creek Bridge in 1886. Mr Costello would later own the Victoria, the Central and the Commercial hotels, and in 1889 and 1890 was elected Alderman. The choice of hotel name seems odd given the developer was Irish and the name of the subsequent proprietor in 1890 – Fritz Schneider – who had last been working as a chef at the Hotel Vancouver.

Although it called itself a hotel, like many such establishments it had many residents, and by the end of its life (in 1913) it was called the Glasgow Furnished Rooms. A permit was approved in 1908 to add 60 rooms, designed by Robert MacDonald, but we’re not certain they were ever built. If they were, it wasn’t for long as in 1915 the Canadian Bank of Commerce replaced the hotel by completing their imposing new branch 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 which followed Mr Horsburgh’s preference for columns – ideally as big as it was possible for columns to get. His Edmonton bank has a traditional Greek Temple facade held up by four massive columns, and his Nanaimo branch four even bigger columns in a shallow curve. In Vancouver the columns are also huge, but grouped on either side of the entrance (and hollow). And so it still stands, and is still a bank for the same owners nearly a century later.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Hot P84