Archive for the ‘Wing Sang Company’ Tag

Pender Street and Shanghai Alley

Pender & Shanghai

This 1917 Vancouver Public Library image shows a five year old building. It faces West Pender Street, with the narrow face of the building on Shanghai Alley (shown as Shanghai Street on the 1912 insurance map). It was designed by J G Price for Lun Yick Co, a Chinese-owned company controlled by Yip Chun Tien (more often called Yip Sang, who also ran the Wing Sang Company). Price also designed the West Hotel for the same client in the same year, and the two buildings looked very similar.

As it was built in 1912 it wasn’t, as you might expect, the first building on the site. Wing Sang had built a 2-storey building here earlier – we think it was in 1903, designed by ‘Mr. O’Keefe’. Michael O’Keefe wasn’t really an architect, he was mostly a builder, but he was willing to design buildings for Chinese owners to build themselves. He didn’t even live in Vancouver; the only likely M O’Keefe we’ve found was a carpenter, and later a builder, living in Victoria. We know he took the steamer to cross to Vancouver in the early 1900s. The tunnel in the centre of the building (the only real Chinatown tunnel!) led to an alley – Canton Alley – although the 1912 insurance map called it Canton Street. A series of buildings were built here by Wing Sang over nearly 10 years, costing over $150,000 with this $55,000 investment.

The seven storey apartment building didn’t last all that long. It was demolished in 1948, and the site stayed undeveloped for many years. In 1998 the CBA Manor and an adjacent building were built. As far as we can tell they were designed by Joe Wai and Davidson Yuen Simpson. There is a 4-storey social services centre run by SUCCESS, and a commercial and residential building on seven floors.

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Posted September 8, 2014 by ChangingCity in Chinatown, East End, Gone

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West Hotel – Carrall Street

The West Hotel has been around for nearly a century, and is looking pretty good, considering. As this VPL 1951 picture shows, it did pretty well in the first half of its existence. The huge cornice was still intact and the BC Electric Depot nearby kept it busy (and is the said to be why it was so much bigger than most other hotels).

It was designed by J G Price, and completed in 1913 for Lun Yick Co, a Chinese owned company controlled by Yip Chun Tien (more often called Yip Sang, who also ran the Wing Sang Company).  The size of the hotel shows the resources available to the Chinese merchants in the city in the early part of the 20th Century. The Wing Sang company ran a trading empire, supplied labour and operating fish packing businesses as well as an opium factory (perfectly legally at the time). Today the beer parlour is still downstairs and the upper floors are now a privately owned SRO hotel.

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Posted February 22, 2012 by ChangingCity in Chinatown, Still Standing

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Wing Sang & Co – East Pender Street

Chinese merchant Yip Sang arrived in Canada in 1881 (from San Francisco, where he’d been working for 16 years) and headed for the Cariboo gold fields. He had no luck there, but more success when he got work as the supervisor of the Chinese work gangs building the Canadian Pacific Railway. When the line was completed he based himself in the new city of Vancouver, and in 1888 established the Wing Sang Company. A year later he was able to build a warehouse and store with living accommodation, and here he is in 1900 in front of it. on East Pender Street between Carrall and Columbia, with three children, and two wives. A year later he added a third floor, and built eastwards as his business expanded exponentially.

By 1908 he was reckoned to be worth over $200,000 and in time he came to own at least 16 city lots. In 1912 he added a new wing at the back of the Pender Street building to house his three wives and twenty-three children. The original architect of the two storey part has not been identified – although there weren’t too many choices in 1889. The official explanation for the second floor doorway is that goods were hauled up to the warehouse, but with no lifting gear it seems more likely to be an off-the-shelf design that contemplated the possibility of a porch across the sidewalk that was never actually built. There was a perfectly serviceable staircase on the outside of the east side of the building. The Yip family finally sold the building in 2001, and in 2006 realtor Bob Rennie initiated a multi-million dollar award-winning restoration designed by Walter Francl that put everything back the way it was designed (at the front), while creating an extraordinary art gallery from the rear building and the space between.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 689-52 and CVA 689-91

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