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

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The New Lucky Rooms--468 Union Street: More Than Meets The Eye

468 Union Street - Courtesy Patrick Gunn,  Heritage Vancouver
When I first moved into the neighbourhood in 2000, I soon found out that certain buildings or houses had a reputation... This was one of those buildings... a three storey apartment building that had seen better days, and nicer management. Over the last little while, things seemed to have improved at the "New" Lucky Rooms... new management, less drug and craziness related problems. Things may be looking up. Perhaps one day it will have a makeover like its neighbour 478 Union just down the street.

So where was I going with this? A while back, when I was looking at a way of stringing together a walking route through the East End I thought the 400 block of Union had to be looked at. Because of the way the MacLean Park project housing was laid out, any tour going through the East End wanting to visit Hogan's alley had to go along the 400 block of Union. So I started researching ten addresses in the block and found out some very interesting stuff: like the home of Vancouver's Amelia Earhart, Tosca Trasolini, the homes of a number of refugee Christian Lebanese families, like the Haddads, Nahomes and Sabas, that the brick house built by Italian-born longshoreman and bootlegger Adamo Piovesan was the second house to be built on the lot and that there was a second generation of bootlegging going on after the Piovesan's moved. You know.. boring East End stuff... the stuff that gets my heart and mind going... the stuff that makes me wish I could research every single house in this neighbourhood... But let's concentrate on one... the New Lucky Rooms.

Prior to the construction of this building, there were actually two other structures built on the same lot. The house on the lane, 466 Union (Barnard Street originally) was built in 1904-05 by Belgian-born mason Jerome C. Martin. Jerome was born in 1854, the son of Zavier Martin and Catherine Van Bergen. his wife, Mary Jane O'Brien, who applied for water service for the house on Augut 23, 1904, was born in Kings Township, County York in Ontario, the daughter of John O'Brian and Jane Milligan. 466 Barnard appears for the first time in the directories in 1906 as Jerome Martin's home. The original 468 Barnard was built in 1906 and first appears in the directories in 1907 as the home of BC Electric Railway motorman Edward J. Goudie. 

Then October 6, 1912, another water service application for the lot was made by Jerome Martin. You can see that there is a new building on the lot, marked in pink. This new
Plate 70 of Volume 2 of 1912 Goad's Atlas Fire Insurance Map of Vancouver
building, today's New Lucky Rooms, first appears in the directories as the White Horse Rooms. Perhaps Jerome had spent some time in the Klondyke before settling in Vancouver. 

Photo courtesy of Patrick Gunn - Heritage Vancouver
The 1913 directory lists the first floor as occupied by the Roma Restaurant, run by G. Giovanetti. Perhaps it was the war, or perhaps Mr. Giovanetti couldn't keep a good cook, but for whatever reason, by 1914 the restaurant space was converted into a grocery store run by a widow named Sarah Lipovsky. Sarah Lipovsky was born in Russia in 1880 and is supposed to have come to Canada around 1904 and to BC in 1910, but she does not turn up in the census under that surname, or under her maiden name, Lazarovitch. Her deceased husband was Moses Lipovsky, a Russian-born sheet metal worker, who died at the Vancouver General Hospital on September 27, 1912 of acute appendicitis at the age of 42. Moses was buried in Mountain View, according to his death certificate, though his name does not turn up on their website. The home address given on the death certificate was 645 East 13th. In the 1912 and 1913 directories, the surname was spelled Lopovsky. In later life, Sarah Lipovsky lived at 1816 West 13th. She died at St. Paul’s Hospital of a heart condition on April 23, 1929 at the age of 49 and was buried in the Old Section of Mountain View in Plot 1/06/014/0002.

For most of World War I, the store was vacant, then in 1919, 468 Union became the home of Abraham and Fredah Charkow. The 1919 directory seems to intimate that Abraham Charkow had an egg store at 468 Union. Abraham Charkow was Jewish, most likely from Poland, there are a number of Polish-born Jews named Charkow in the BC Archives Vital Events listings. Freda Charkow was born in Poland on June 18, 1894, the daughter of Moses and Fagi Chrak. She came to Vancouver in 1915. In later life, the Charkows lived at 5424 Connaught Drive. Freda Charkow died on December 11, 1955 at the age of 60 and was buried in Schara Tsedeck Cemetery in Burnaby.

The apartments above the store first appear in the 1917 directory and for most of the buildings life their address is 468½ Union. during the early years, often only the name of the resident caretaker is listed, not all the residents.

In 1920 and 1921 the main floor was an Italian confectionery run by Eugenio Falcioni, then victor Dorigo.By 1923, it was a butcher shop run by Herbert J. Stickland. In 1925-26 it was the Union Tailor Shop run by Louis Battistoni. From 1927 through to 1929, Luigi shared the space with his brother Giuseppe who ran the Union Shoe Repair from the same address. Around this time the south side of the block, at least all ten of the houses included in the study I was doing were occupied by Italian families.

In 1929, the corner store at 578 Union was taken over by a Japanese family, the Sogas. In 1930, 468 Union became the Lethbridge Meat Market run by a man named John Ungeren. At first I thought John might have been Swedish or Finnish. There were lots of Swedes and Finns in the neighbourhood, but John was actually Romanian. John Ungeren was born in Romania in 1881 and came to BC around 1928. His father's name was Constantine Ungeren. His wife, Dora Henko, was born in Romania on May 13, 1898, the daughter of Pete and Florence Henko. They had at least one daughter, Katie Ungeren, born in Lethbridge Alberta on March 12, 1923. The same year, the apartments in the upper floors were run by a Japanese man named Masashi Nakagawa.

The depression shook things up badly in Vancouver, especially in this neighbourhood. In 1931-32, the Ungeren family took over operations of the entire lot. The Ungeren family lived behind in the lane house at 466 Union. Mrs. Ungeren ran a grocery store in the front unit of 468, while john took over running the upstairs rooms.As the depression progressed, the grocery went out of business, the storefront remained vacant for a number of years, the extended Ungeren family moved into the upstairs apartments, and "Orientals" rented out 466 at the back. Of the Ungeren children living at 468 Union, George and William Ungeren worked as shoe shiners at the Stock Exchange Barber Shop, Annie worked as a waitress at the Union Cafe, Victoria worked as a waitress at the Newton Cafe, and Mary worked as a waitress at another restaurant. Nick Ungeren worked as a shoe shiner for F. Lee.

By the time World War II rolled around, 468 Union was renamed the Lethbridge Rooms. By 1940, leather cutter Joseph King and his wife Annie lived in the lane house at 466 Union. In 1941, the Lethbridge Rooms were renamed the Adora Court Rooms, probably after Dora Ungeren. They remained the Adora Court Rooms long after the Ungerens moved away in 1943. For the remainder of the war, it seems that the block was looked at L. & Christina Few. Mr. Few was listed as being in Active Service so perhaps Christina Few was the manager. The lane house at 466 Union was rented by logger Einer Nylen and his wife Tillie. After the war, the Adora Court Rooms were taken over by George and Katie Kohut.

In 1951, the Kohuts moved out and a man named William Baert took over as caretaker. The ground floor until was rented out to a Chinese interpreter named T. H. Liu, and George A. Sloan, a furnaceman for Great Western smelting and his wife Kay took over the lane house.

Sometime prior to 1954, a woman named Ho Lam took over proprietorship of the Adora Court Rooms. She ran the place until at least 1981, but hired a number of resident caretakers over the years. 1981 is the last year you see the name Adora Court in the city directories. In the 1980s and 90s the directories list mostly Chinese residents in the apartment while the lane house at 466 Union was rented out to the Odegaard and then the Sollazzo families.  From 1992 onward, 466 became the home of Yen Chia Liu, the manager of the Sun Ah (New Asia) Hotel at 100 East Pender.

Although the name may have been used prior to that, the first time Lucky Rooms appears as a name in the directories is 1999.

This is only a small distillation of the history of this place. It is a great reminder that every house, every old apartment building, no matter how run down, has a history and that history is worthy of being investigated.


  1. When I first moved to Vancouver in 1997 I was told that there had been so many murders there that people were starting to call it "Unlucky Rooms".


  2. @Clark Hmmm. That's the first time I have heard of it being that bad, but who knows? Most of what I heard had to do with drugs and stuff. Interesting.

  3. talk to my son sometime. He was a friend/classmate of Lucky Rooms' manager in '90s. interesting dynamic between neighborhood kids & addict tenants. kiku

  4. i stayed there with my girlfriend in the summer 0f 2001..we were 19 and naive, newly in town from Ontario..the landlord, Arnold, was a hulking psychotic Native man, prone to drinking 'firewater' and beating up and (what sounded like through the paper-thin walls) raping the old junkie tenants. after a month of terror and close calls we had to sneak out with our stuff in the middle of the night. i'd like to hear what your son has to say about the manager, and any other stories.

  5. Do you have any history on 406 Union Street?

  6. It's really quite interesting reading about the history of this place