Archive for the ‘William Dick’ Tag

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 November 22, 2018 by ChangingCity in Chinatown, Still Standing

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100 block East Pender Street – north side

100 block E Pender 3

Almost 80 years separate these images; the original identifies as a parade on Pender Street taken between 1936 and 1938, and the contemporary picture taken at this year’s Chinese New Year parade. As we’ve noted with so many Chinatown images, the important buildings have remained almost unchanged. Obviously the parade has changed – these days the cars are cleared from the street, and there generally aren’t any horses on parade (but this parade was advertising a Chinese historical production concerning the land west of Eastern Turkestan). The greatest difference in this set of four buildings is the Lee Building, to the west (the left of the picture) which was rebuilt following a fire and so today has open balconies rather than the closed stucco of the original building. (That stucco seems to have been added to a second bay of the building after 1925, as the Frank Gowan postcard we looked at before on the blog shows).

The narrower building to the east of the Lee Building was designed in 1923 by A E Henderson for Lung Kong Kung Shaw, replacing one designed by W H Chow in 1914. In this picture Kwong Yee Lung Co have their store name prominently displayed; they were at this location for several decades and dealt in Chinese herbs. It seems likely that Henderson’s client was a variant on the company name, as they hired contractor C Duck to make alterations to the previous building in 1920, and were still occupying this location in the mid 1950s.

Next door is a 5-storey 1913 building designed by H B Watson for William Dick at a cost of $30,000. Originally four floors high with the Kwong Fong grocery on the ground floor, the Mah Society acquired the building in 1920 and added a fifth floor in 1921 designed by E J Boughen. William Dick was a clothing company mogul; we’ve seen one of his properties on West Hastings. We assume this building was purely built as an investment, just like the houses he built a few blocks away. In 1917 W H Chow made some changes to the building for Yam Young.

The final building in this group was once known as Ming’s Restaurant, with extravagant neon announcing the business. the Good Luck Cabaret also operated in the building – a use that continues today as the Fortune Sound Club. In 1913 Yee Lee owned a property here, and Toy Get carried out some alterations for him. In 1919 Mrs Smith was the owner, and builder R P Forshaw carried out further alterations. The current building was designed in 1920 and built a year later by W H Chow (with W T Whiteway helping out to get the necessary permits, as in 1921 Chow was refused admission to the newly-incorporated Architectural Institute of BC, despite his extensive experience). The description of the building’s history notes that “The original facade decoration was classical, with pilasters, capitals, and a deep cornice. This was made more ‘Chinese’ in 1977, with the addition of Chinese (and English) characters on the frieze, and decorative panels and balcony railings.” There were Chinese characters on the front of the building in the 1930s through to the early 1970s, but in the 1930s there was also the English words ‘International Chop Suey’. That restaurant pre-dated Ming’s Restaurant, and was here throughout the 1920s and 30s. Ming’s was operated by Hong Wong, and advertised ‘authentic Chinese dishes at moderate prices’ and attracted both Chinese and non-Chinese diners, with many wedding banquets  being held here.

Image Source CVA 300-101

Lee Building – East Pender Street

100 blk E Pender

Here’s a 1925 postcard by Frank Gowan of the north side of the 100 block of Pender Street. Many of the buildings are still the same today, although one has been effectively rebuilt (although you would hardly notice at first glance).

The Lee Building is in the centre of the image; the central arcaded ‘Chinese style’ building. It was built in 1907 or 1908 by the Lee Lung Sai Business Company, although there’s no record of who designed it. This was a ‘family association’, but seems to have been purely a money-making venture rather than a family support building. It was one of the earliest Chinatown family buildings, and all the money raised to build the structure was provided by people with the name Lee. While many of the Chinese family buildings had accommodation and a hall for meetings, the Lee building only held a small office for the organisation’s own use, with the rest of the space leased out.

Around 1920 the building was sold to Lee Bick, (Ron Bick Lee) and his family still owned the property in 1971 when all the buildings in the picture were recognised with heritage status as part of the area’s historic area designation. The building was occupied over the years by a number of importers, retail merchants, restaurants, and clan associations. Lee arrived in Victoria at the age of 18 in 1910, working at a local restaurant in Victoria’s Chinatown.  He moved to Vancouver in 1916, working in various restaurants, hotels and import stores. Lee opened the Foo Hung Company in the Lee Building in 1921 and the import-export business went so well that he expanded into the greenhouse business, operating the Grandview Greenhouse on 50 acres in East Vancouver during the Depression. Lee was actively involved in the community through different associations, including the Chinese Public School, the Lee Association, Chinatown Lion’s Club and the Toi San Benevolent Society.

A year after the heritage designation the Lee Building was almost completely destroyed in a fire, and Robert Lee decided to rebuild. The city’s Historic Area Advisory Board initially advocated reconstruction but then, because of building code constraints, accepted the restoration of the facade as a free-standing frame and the construction of a new building behind it, which was completed in 1973 to designs by Henriquez and Todd. Today the facade has a modern building behind it (set back so that it resembles the balconies of the original structure), an open courtyard fronting the third bay of the building on the west side, with parking space off the rear lane.

The arcaded building to the west of the Lee Building is the 1921 Wong’s Benevolent Association building. There was a 2-storey building here in 1910 (and some reports suggest 1904), but in 1921 two more floors were added, designed by J A Radford, (G A Southall and W H Chow are both also associated with the rebuilt design). From the mid 1920s the Mon Keang School was in the building, providing language lessons to the Canadian-born children of the Chinese community.

The narrower building to the east of the Lee Building was designed in 1923 by A E Henderson for Lung Kong Kung Shaw, replacing one designed by W H Chow in 1914. Closer still is the 5-storey 1913 building designed by H B Watson for William Dick. Originally four floors high with the Kwong Fong grocery on the ground floor, the Mah Society acquired the building in 1920 and added a fifth floor in 1921 designed by E J Boughen.

East Pender – 500 block

500 block E Pender

Our 1978 image shows the north side of the 500 block of East Pender Street. Although the whole block had once been full of businesses and houses, with the threat of comprehensive redevelopment in the 1960s, by 1978 (when the threat had passed) just two houses remained standing on this stretch of East Pender. They were designed and built in 1909 by Thomas Angus, a builder who was active in the city from 1909 for several years. Angus was aged 35 when he built the houses; he was born in Ontario but had probably been in Manitoba before moving to Vancouver (as his daughters, Gertrude and Elva aged 5 and 3 in 1909, were born there).

The owner of the houses was William Dick, so they were built as investment properties, costing $3,200 to build. We’ve seen his Hastings Street clothing store, built a few years later, in another post. In 1913 he also built an apartment building on East Pender Street, designed by H B Watson that became the home of the Mah Society of Canada a few years later. His home was in the West End, on Nelson Street.

The two houses these days are exactly the same as they were in 1909 – two houses. To the east the almost vacant land we can see in 1978 was redeveloped in 1983 as Jackson Gardens, a 26 unit strata development with a mix of apartments and townhouses, designed by H Hou. Because it’s only two storeys high the built density is actually lower than the two 1909 houses next door.

The Dick Block – 379 West Hastings

379 E Hastings 1926

Here’s part of William Dick’s clothing empire; his West Hastings flagship store in 1926, very soon after it opened. Townley and Matheson designed it with more of a restrained Chicago style than some of their more Art Deco designs. The building is covered in cream terra cotta and at one time featured a significant canopy, now lost.

Wm Dick 1908There were in fact two people called William Dick – father and son, and it was William Dick Jr who ran the clothing business. He was still living on Vancouver Island in 1908 (when he received his gold handled umbrella – a useful gift for a new Vancouver resident). In 1911 he was aged 31 and living in the same house as his parents with his sister and two younger brothers. (Ten years earlier when the family lived in Nanaimo there were seven children listed – William Dick Sr was a coal miner, but William Jr, shown as aged 18, and his younger brother James were both sales clerks). His father and mother were both Scots and his father arrived in Canada in 1885, but all four children had been born in BC. While William Jr was listed as a merchant, his brothers were salesmen, and his parents and sister had ‘none’ listed as their occupation.

William Dick Jr wore at least three hats – he ran a successful clothing company, he owned British Columbia Estates, a local real estate development company, and he was a Conservative Member of the BC Legislature for Vancouver City, elected in 1928.

Today the building still stands, and as the area slowly recovers from the decline that followed the closure of the major departmental stores, perhaps will regain its place in the area’s revitalised retail role.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-2239

Posted January 3, 2013 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, Victory Square

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