The Dales House at 414 Alexander Street circa 1890 CVA Photo SGN 490

Friday, September 3, 2010

East End Irredenta - Strathcona North of Hastings - Part 1

A few Saturdays back, I did a walking tour that focussed on the history and the remaining built heritage of the part of the East End north of Hastings Street. This was a fundraiser for Heritage Vancouver Society, on whose board I sit, and which has included the territory called Strathcona North in their 2010 Ten Most Endangered List.

I am calling this post East End Irredenta because what was historically the oldest part of the East End has been separated and alienated from the East End south of Hastings through the arbitrary renaming and remapping of sections of the traditional East End by the City Planning Department. This process all began with the renaming of parts of the East End "Strathcona" in the 1950s and 1960s when City Hall planned to totally demolish the part of the old East End between Gore to Clark and from Hastings south to Prior and replace everything with concrete high and low-rise project housing bounded by a freeway that would run from downtown between Prior and Union all the way to the Trans-Canada. Here are links to two videos chronicling the planned project. (1) (2)

Ultimately the project was halted part way through the process, thanks to the efforts of Mary Lee Chan and her daughter Shirley Chan who organized first the Chinese and then other East End residents into the Strathcona Property Owners and Tennants Association (SPOTA). The remaining built heritage south of Hastings gained protection through a new specially designed zoning for the neighbourhood called RT3, but this zoning only extends north to the alley south of Hastings. The built heritage that is not currently designated is left unprotected.

Meanwhile, the renaming and remapping of the East End goes on. In the early 1970s, Bruce Ericksen coined the term Downtown East Side to give some dignity to a derelict area of the old business district known as Skid Road. Back in the 1970s people thought of Skid Road as being centred on the 100 block of East Hastings. Look at any map put out by the City of Vancouver these days and you will see that what people are currently calling the DTES has grown way beyond its original boundaries. New designations like Oppenheimer, though indeed an homage to historic Oppenheimer Street and Oppenheimer Park, further confuse the issue.

Worse, these new names work to wipe out an old neighbourhood's historic identity. They weaken people's associations with and connections to the buildings, streetscapes, history and heritage of the area. Over time, this process of forced disassociation makes it much easier for City Hall to step in and treat the area as if it were a clean slate. When City Hall announces new plans for development, or policy and zoning changes for the Downtown Eastside, or Oppenheimer, Thornton Park or the Hastings Corrider, people who would have or should pay attention don't... and before you know it...

Anyway, back to the heritage of East End Irredenta or Strathcona North of Hastings.  The following is a photographic virtual walking tour through the neighbourhood, starting from the north at Railway and heading south to Hastings. I am interspersing the photos of the houses and buildings that still stand in the neighbourhood with archival images from the City of Vancouver Archives and the Vancouver Public Library Special Collections Department to show what sort of buildings and streetscapes existed in the neighbourhood in years past.

The history of the East End (or Strathcona as it is known now) began with the establishment of the Hastings Sawmill. The only building left from the old Hastings Sawmill still standing is the old Hastings Mill Store which was moved to the north foot of Blanca by barge in the 1930s after the old mill closed down. There are several pictures of the Hastings Sawmill in the City of Vancouver Archives and in VPL's Special Collections. Here are some of them:
Mi P60 - Hastings Sawmill circa 1913

M1 P19

There are a number of great pictures of worker cabins that once stood on the grounds, and some pictures of the Hastings Mill School, Vancouver's oldest, in the Archives as well.

The Simson Cottage in 1885

The Caulfield brothers in front of their cottage at the Hastings Saw Mill.

Hastings Sawmill School - June 1886

There is a bit of the old mill still left on site. It is the Hastings Mill Office building--not the original, seen here as it was in 1890, but a later edifice built in 1906.

Mi P46 1890

VPL #3893 

Here is a picture of it in 1910 taken by renowned Vancouver photographer, Leonard Frank. This
building still stands across the tracks on the northfoot of Dunlevy. It now functions as the Anglican
Church's Mission to Seafarers. Here is another Leonard Frank photo of it taken in 1932.

VPL#2757 

This is how it looks today. 


50 North Dunlevy, or 401 East Watefront Road, is on the City's Heritage Register . It has an A(M) designation.This important piece of Vancouver history was included in the 2007 Vancouver Heritage Foundation heritage house tour. It is sad and ironic that the one piece of the old Hastings
Sawmill still in the East End, like the rest of the Port, is separated from the neighbourhood by barbed wire fence. 



Railway Street

Immediately south of the CPR tracks is railway street. Along the north side of the street are a number of impressive Edwardian commercial buildings. Prior to writing this I thought that they would be on the Heritage Register but they are not. Many of these buildings are now being used as offices or have been converted to condominiums. It would seem that they are not under and threat of demolition, but
who knows? Here they are:

303 and 305 Railway

329 and 339 Railway

339 Railway

343 Railway

349 Railway

395 Railway
Empire Stevedoring Building - built in 1941

395 Railway - Detail

If you ever go visit Railway Street, take time to pay attention to the street itself and you may be surprised at what you see. Here is a photo of the wooden cobbles which were visible the day I visited at the intersection of Railway and Dunlevy.


Now let us head to Alexander Street but head there via Gore Avenue. I know, I know, it
would be shorter to go up Princess but let's start from Gore Avenue. Enroute, let's turn
 around and look toward the old mill site. This is what we would have seen back in
1888, two years after the City of Vancouver was established. 

The Hastings Saw Mill from the foot of Gore Avenue - City of Vancouver Archives Photo M1 P21


There are a number of old archival photos of Alexander Street. Here is one of 214 Alexander taken in 1888. This building, of course, is long gone.

CVA Photo SGN 131

After  the great fire of June 13, 1886, R. H. Alexander, the manager of Hastings Sawmill had a magnificent house built on the corner of Alexander and Gore Avenue. 

There are no extant close up pictures of the house in Vancouver. There may be elsewhere. If any of you out there know of one's existence, please let me know. There is a picture which shows the house in the distance. Here is City of Vancouver Archives photo Str P223 taken in 1887 by J. A. Brock. You can see R. H. Alexander's mansion just to the right of the middle of the picture with Burrard Inlet and Stanley Park behind. From his mansion at Gore and Alexander, R. H. had an excellent view, not only of Burrard Inlet and the North Shore mountains, but more importantly of his mill at the foot of Dunlevy Street.  Remember you can clickon the image to enlarge it.


R. H. Alexander's was the first in Vancouver to apply for water service. His house at 300 Alexander is Number 1 in the water service application records. 



Numbers 1 through 10 are all on the 300 and 400 blocks of Alexander Street. Just to the right of R. H. Alexander's house are two very similar smaller houses. These are the homes of Dr. Duncan Bell-Irving (at 308 Alexander) and his canneryman brother Henry O. Bell-Irving (at 310 Alexander).

This is what the corner of Gore and Hastings looks like today. The building is the old Vancouver and Victoria Stevedoring Company.


This is the exact location of R. H. Alexander's mansion. The Bell-Irvings would have lived in houses on the lots to the left.


Across the street, is this tenement building, 313Alexander, built by Japanese-born railway contractor Yonekichi Aoki in 1906. It is not on the Heritage Register.

In the early 1900s, just to the east of 313 Alexander was 323 Alexander, the Vancouver Water Works Shop. (R. H. Alexander,the Bell-Irvings, and their peers had moved from
the neighbourhood by then.) 

 CVA Photo Ci Dept P7
This address is now a gated parking lot. 



This is 360 Alexander. I am not absolutely sure it is the same building, but in 1914 362 Alexander was known as the Empress Rooms.Walking east along Alexander we reach Dunlevy. Imagine yourself back in 1898 waiting for the Labour Day parade to pass before you could continue east to the 400-block. 



The 400 block of Alexander has a number of significant sites, including two old houses and the Japanese Hall and Language School.



Here are 412 Alexander (on the right) and 414 Alexander. 412 Alexander has a rather unusualy
arcing porch roof design. 412 Alexander was built in 1898 by stone mason James Harris.
In 1901, it was the home of the Rev. John Reid of Knox Presbyterian Church. Knox Presbyterian
stood at 152 East Cordova and looked like this.

This is VPL Photo #7986 and was taken in 1907 by Philip Timms.




414 Alexander, built sometime around 1889, is a real interesting old house. Water service was applied for on June 24, 1889 by carpenter Thomas Dale. He and his family lived in the house for one year. In 1890,the house was vacant. Then in 1891, a shipwright named James Doherty lived here. This is how the house looks now. It is covered in asbestos shingles and is a little worse for wear, but this is how the house looked in 1890, shortly after it was built.



This is City of Vancouver Archives Photo SGN 295. Notice the rich architectural detail that was lost. The darkish house behind it still stands. The little house to the left still stood up until the 1970s. Here is what they looked like in April of 1969. Quite a change, eh? CVA 780-352.



A few houses down are 472 (one the left) and 422 Alexander. 422 Alexander was built in 1890 and
first occupied by the Woodward family. 472 was built in 1905 and for most of the years it is listed
in the directories, there is no information on who lived there. The address is listed merely as "cabins".
CVA 780-350.




Across the street, at 439 Alexander Street, the Japanese community built their first Japanese language school in 1906. I have lived in Japan, and I can tell you that this building looks like a lot of the old country school buildings that can still be seen across Japan today. This is CVA 99-2468. This photo was taken by Stuart Thomson in 1929.





475 Alexander Street in 1929 by Stuart Thomson CVA 99-2469. It was built in 1928 and designed by the firm Sharp & Thompson. It, along with all other property owned by the coastal BC Nikkei community was expropriated by the government. A heritage plaque outside the building indicates that this is the only building owned by Japanese prior to WW2 that was returned to the community.

Here is how the Japanese Hall looks now. In the distance is the 500 block of Alexander, the old red light district of the 1910s, and the American Can Company building which obliterated many bordellos on the north side of the street.


Vancouver fans of punk rock remember the Japanese Hall as the place where the Vancouver punk scene was born. The first official punk concert in Vancouver took place at the Japanese Hall on July 30, 1977. 400 people turned up to hear the all-girl Vancouver Island band, The Dishrags open the show, followed by The Furies.

As mentioned above, the 500 and 600 blocks of Alexander was a Red Light district in the 1910s. Prior to its relocation to these blocks, it was in the 100 block of Harris (Shore Street) which was obliterated from the map when the first Georgia Viaduct connecting the West and East End was built. Harris Street was renamed East Georgia in 1915 when the viaduct opened. Here are pictures of a number of buildings that still stand. Most were built as brothels.

The building at 500 Alexander later became the British Seaman's Mission. Oh, the irony... Madam Dolly Darlington who built the building had a mission for seamen there from the very beginning. 

                                                       500 Alexander as it is today

Here are two photos taken of the same building by renowned Vancouver photographer Leonard Frank. One was taken in 1924 and the other in 1940. VPL Photos #3127 and #3128




Note that there has been some change in the line of the front cornice. Perhaps this was done when the flagpole was removed.500 Alexander is listed on Vancouver's Heritage Register as Heritage B. Here's a link to a fascinating story connected to this building.


                                                         502 Alexander, built circa 1888 for merchant John B. Henderson
                                                         was run as a brothel by Ruth Richards in 1912

502 Alexander is listed as Heritage C. It is thought that this little house on Alexander was most likely the second oldest house in Vancouver. The DTES-based housing agency Atira, when it bought and renovated 500 Alexander had plans to build an addition behind 502. They removed the back end of the balloon framed house making it unstable, then pleaded poverty when heritage activists demanded that the house be saved. Two different neighbours came forward to try to move the house to save it, but City of Vancouver red tape and ineptness got in the way, and the second oldest standing house in Vancouver was demolished. It has been replaced with a multi-storey residence made out of recycled cargo containers that, along with the renovated brothel next door, currently houses hard to house at risk young women.  

The next two pictures show 504 Alexander--not on the Heritage Register--which was built by Kathryn A. Maynard in 1913. This is a rather grand brick-built building currently operating as social housing.


514 Alexander was built by Alice Bernard. Alice turns up in both the 1901 census on Dupont Street and in the 1911 census on Shore Street. She was a veteran in the business.

 

At the corner of Alexander and Princess is an empty lot. This was the site of a derelict social housing unit at 598 Alexander, which is slated to become a ten storey social housing project. On the same vacant lot stood 578 Alexander, a brothel run by a woman named Marie Gomez. Like a number of other Alexander Street brothels, Marie advertised her business with her name in ceramic tiles on her door
 step. There are two pictures of her old home in Vancouver Public Library's Special Collections taken in 1972 by Curt Lang. The tiles were still there when the photos (VPL#85872Z and VPL#85872X) were taken.




One wonders what happened to the tiles in the foyer. Are they in the Vancouver Museum? Does a collector have them? Or did they end up as land fill? Rumour has it that they were unceremoniously dumped in a hold alongside the site an buried. So much for heritage conservation.

The North Foot of Heatley was the entrance to Ballantyne Pier, the site of a number of violent confrontations between the police and unemployed or locked out workers. The most famous,
and the bloodiest of these was the Battle of Ballantyne Pier on  June 18, 1935. Here is a picture from the Vancouver Public Library Special Collections (VPL#8829) showing police guarding the entrance to the docks.



And here is a picture of the police attack on the striking workers.




This is CVA Photo 371-1127. It shows the mounted police literally following the striking workers on horse up people's front steps. for a great explanation and illustration of the event, please check out Lani Russwurm's amazing Blog called Past Tense. Lani, to my mind, is Chuck Davis TNG. He is a brilliant researcher and writer with a fresh new focuss. I can't wait for Lani's hard work to be recognized and rewarded with the first of many book contracts.

Before we leave Alexander Street and head south on Heatley, there are two things I would like to mention. North of the current CPR tracks, between Heatley and Campbell Avenue (east of the Hastings Mill) was site of a First Nations settlement known as the Indian Rancherie. This is where the First Nations employees of the Hastings Sawmill lived. It was actually visited in 1876 by Lady Dufferin, the wife of the first Governor General to visit Burrard Inlet and apparently was the site of some extravagant potlatches. Here is an excerpt from the 15th of January 1886 issue of the Vancouver Weekly Herald. This was the first issue of the first newspaper to be published in Vancouver:

“A dance took plane in the Indian camp near the Hastings Mill on New Year’s Eve. Several ladies of Vancouver went to see the affair, and looked with great interest at their dusky sisters dancing around the fires in bare feet. The music was made by beating sticks on boards. A few aristocrats had instruments made by stretching skins over barrel hoops, but their softer melody was not discernable in the hubbub made by hammering lumber.”

The second thing is the small triangle of land south of the tracks just east of Heatley. This was the site of a CPR railway stop, Heatley Station. The station building was actually the very first CPR station to be built in Vancouver at the foot of Granville in 1886. Here is a picture of the station the day the first CPR train arrived in Vancouver.

LGN 460 First train to Vancouver May 23, 1887
Here is what it looked like after it was moved to the foot of Heatley when a larger, 'permanent' brick structure was built at Vancouver Station. This is CVA Photo Can P229 by Erwin R. Gordon.


Here is a picture of the station in August of 1945 when a group of Vancouver pioneers gathered here to reenact the arrival of the first CPR train. CVA 1184-3402. You can see the American Can Company building in the back.


Let's walk north on Heatley to Powell Street. Before we turn west toward Old Japan Town, lets turn our attention to a couple of blocks east to Powell and Campbell.


This is 204 Campbell Avenue. From 1928 to 1946, this was the site of St. Joseph's Oriental Hospital, the precursor to Mount St. Joseph's Hospital on Prince Edward Street. The hospital got its start in 1926 when the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception bought a house on the site at 236 Campbell Avenue. I am not sure if, at this time, Japanese and Chinese Vancouverites were not welcome at other hospitals, or if this was a special gesture to, or mission for these communities.  

At the corner of Powell and Heatley is 686 Powell Street. It was once known as the Bows and Arrows Hall and was the headquarters for the Squamish Longshoremen's Union, local 38-57 of the International Longsoremen's Assocation. 686 Powell can be seen at the right.


Powell Street between Heatley and Princess was the subject of a number of old photos currently preserved in the City of Vancouver Archives.


City of Vancouver Archives photo LGN 1014 shows work crews laying down street car rails on Powell between Princess and Heatley 1889. If my hunch is correct, the little house second from the left still stands behind a rather ornately muralled concrete brick wall.


CVA Photo LGN 1213 shows the same block of Powell Street looking east from Princess in 1912. The little house that still stands is hidden behind some trees.

At Jackson and Powell stands the Vancouver Japanese Buddhist Church built in 1979. It is owned and run by a branch of Japanese Buddhism known as Jodo Shinshu, or, the New Pure Land Sect. Initially, this was the location of the Japanese Methodist Mission Church built in 1907 which became the Powell Street United Church in 1925. The old church building was bought by the Japanese Buddhist Temple in 1954 after some members of the Nikkei community returned to Powell Street.

VPL#6840 Methodist Japanese Mission 1907 Philip Timms
There are some amazing panorama shots of a funeral taken in front of the Church on March 5th of 1927. Here is CVA Photo Pan N143A.  Click on the picture to enlarge it.


Across from the Buddhist Church is Oppenheimer Park, also known as the Powell Street Grounds. Originally this park was encircled with a tall wooden fence. This is CVA Photo M-3-19.4, taken sometime between 1897 and 1902.


The Powell Street Grounds from early on was used as a site for labour rallies and freedom of speech demonstrations. In the newspapers of the day, it was sometimes touted as Vancouver's Hyde Park.


Above we see mounted police keeping an eye on a freedom of speech demonstration in 1912. This is CVA Photo 371-971. During the Great Depression this park was the site of mass rallies by the unemployed. There are a number of photos from this period at VPL Special Collections and at the CVA. Here are a few of them:

CVA 99-2642 May Day Demonstration, 1932, Stuart Thomson 

CVA 99-2643 May Day Demonstration, 1932, Stuart Thomson

VPL Photo# 6645 Mass Meeting of the Unemployed in 1938, Stuart Thomson

VPL Photo# 13347 Demonstration during Art Gallery and Post Office Sit In, 1938 

Oppenheimer Park was also the home of Japan Town's most famous sons, the Asahi Baseball Team. The Asahi were Vancouver's only non-white team in the years leading up to World War II. Below is VPL Photo#86005 showing the Asahi team in 1931. There is a wonderful 51 minute long CBC documentary called "Sleeping Tigers". You should be able to watch it online by clicking the link.
Asahi Baseball Team on Powell Grounds 1931 - VPL 86005
There are a number of historically significant buildings on the north side of the 400 block of Powell Street, many with significant Nikkei (Japanese Canadian) history. People interested in finding out more about these buildings should take the tour of Japantown offered by volunteers from the Nikkei Heritage Centre and Heritage Vancouver when it is offered again, or search out the booklet called Powell Street, by Dr. Audrey Kobayashi.

Marr Hotel - 401 Powell Street




















At 401 Powell Street stands a rather nondescript three storey hotel now housing an SRO. Today it is called the Marr Hotel. but when it was first built in the late 1880s, this hotel was known as the Secord Hotel, and it looked much fancier than it does today.

Secord Hotel circa 1890, CVA Photo Hot P85


















Over the years, the Secord Hotel lost its wraparound balconies. By the 1940s, the hotel was renamed The Imperial Hotel and was owned by the Honda family. It is not on the Vancouver Heritage Register.

There are several pictures of Powell Street take from the original balconies of the Secord Hotel. Here are a couple of them. This photo taken in the early 1890s shows a very undeveloped Powell Street. The largish house at the corner of Alexander and Gore Avenue in the background to the right is R. H. Alexander's mansion. To the left is St. James Anglican Church.

VPL Photo# 19755 1890s Bailey Brothers

CVA Photo Str P74.2 View from Secord Hotel 1890 Bailey Brothers
CVA Photo Str P74.3 View from Secord Hotel 1890 Bailey Brothers
There is also a great shot of the interior of a hotel room at the Secord Hotel showing  "ladies parlour".

Secord Hotel Ladies Parlour circa 1890 CVA Photo Hot P23.1 by C. S. Bailey
The 300 and 200 blocks of Powell formed the heart of Japan Town's business district. The showpiece building in the area is of course the Tamura Building at 390 Powell Street. Even today, this building with its pressed tin Corinthian columns, cornices and other decoration is very impressive, but in it's heyday, the Tamura Building was truly a showpiece. The Tamura Building, or New World Hotel, as it is also called, was built by Shinkichi Tamura who came to Vancouver in 1888 and made his fortune exporting the first Canadian wheat and lumber to Japan. The New World Hotel gets an A listing on the Vancouver Heritage Register. However, there are no other buildings in the old Japan Town area that are protected. 

Tamura Building, 390 Powell Street c.1935, JCNM 95-102
There were a number of other large commercial buildings on these blocks. he Maikawa Shoten at 365 Powell Street, was the largest grocery store in Japan Town.
Leonard Frank Feb 1938 VPL#15773
Next door at 395 Powell Street was the Maikawa Shoe Store. Here is a picture taken by Leonard Frank on May 12, 1938. VPL#15953


There are a number of other interesting buildings on the block, especially on the south side with is more intact than the north. One of my favourites is this building which still stands, although a little worse for wear. This is the Fuji Chop Suey House.The architecture, with its second floor balcony, is evocative of some of the older buildings on Pender in Chinatown, butit also reminds me of the old two storey restaurant buildings I saw in Kyoto and other places in Japan that have a loggia on the second floor for patrons to enjoy the evening breezes as they eat. 



Here are some other archival photos of the 300 and 200 blocks of Powell Street.

 VPL #21174 - 337-341 Powell Street, Jan 5, 1928, Dominion Photo
CVA 99-2467 - 300 block Powell Street, 1929, Stuart Thomson
VPL #13300 - 300 block Powell looking west, 1900s, Philip Timms
VPL #11804 - 301 Powell, Taishodo Co. 1927, Stuart Thomson
VPL #11806 - 301 Powell St., Taishodo Co. Interior, 1927, Stuart Thomson
VPL #21773 - 250 Powell, Bunka Shokai Store, June 5, 1928
Dominion Photo
VPL #13433 - 200 block of Powell looking east, 1929, Stuart Thomson
VPL #16149 - 201 Powell Street, August 22, 1941, Leonard Frank
In reality, my walking tour actually turned south on Gore Avenue and then turned east of Cordova, but I thought I would include these pictures of the 200 and 100 blocks of Powell. Today, the western boundary of present day Strathcona is Gore Avenue, but in the 1890s most people would have thought of the East End as the residential area east of the old Gastown townsite. As downtown spread eastward, so did the boundary of the East End.

I am going to continue this tour of East End Irredenta in a subsequent posting. In the meantime, I leave you one last picture from the 100-block of Powell Street, the old City Hall built in the 1880s by Frederick William Sentell.


CVA Photo City P54 The Powell Street City Hall in 1893
Actually, I can't resist. In less than 40 years, the site of Vancouver's first City Hall looked like this.

CVA Photo City N6 - Site of Powell Street City Hall in 1931
So much for Vancouver heritage...  See you back for the second half of East End Irredenta.

Click here to go to the second half of this posting.


4 comments:

  1. wow, that's quite a tour, James.

    514 Alexander is one of my favourites. If you go right up to the front door, there's some interesting old ceramic tile work that's still there.

    I have a couple old newspaper articles that indicate skidroad was considered to be north of Hastings in the 1950s. Perhaps the nickname was extended to Hastings by the 1970s because of the commercial decline that had taken place.

    If you haven't seen it yet, i found a strange historical factoid about the old Sailor's Home at 500 Alexander in my latest blog post, http://pasttensevancouver.wordpress.com/2010/09/04/acid-al/

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think you are right Lani. Skid Road was sort of centred on Gastown before it slid south. Are you sure the ceramic tiles are still there at 514? I wonder what happened to what what at 578 Alexander, Marie Gomez. I would hate to know that it was smashed and ended up as land fill.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Not the original floor tiles at 514, but there are some nice old tiles on the wall in the entrance.
    No idea about the Marie Gomez tiles, though I did find her photo in the rogues' gallery (but no Dolly).

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  4. I absolutely LOVE this area of Vancouver, and all the obvious history... thank you for this.

    ReplyDelete