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

Monday, September 3, 2012

733 Keefer - An East End Storefront with a Lot of History

I have just finished a very large project for a client in Los Angeles that covers a large section of the north side of the 700-block of Keefer Street in Strathcona. The focus of that project is a small house at 743 Keefer, and I will blog about that house sometime soon. 
       This study includes the history of eight other houses: 721, 727, 733, 737, 747, 751 and 753 Keefer (a duplex) 765 and 767 Keefer. some of the original houses have been demolished but the majority of them still stand. 
        Probably one of the most fascinating buildings included in this study is the storefront at 733 Keefer. It was built in 1908 by English-born contractor William H. Rogers.  At the time of this building's construction, William Henry Rogers lived in a house at 432 East Pender, which up until the previous year had been known as Princess Street. According to the 1911 census and other sources, Rogers was born in England in March of 1862 and came to Canada in 1882. In 1911, he and his wife Lily lived at 1201 Harris (now East Georgia) Street with their US-born son Eddie, their English-born caprpenter nephew Albert, their married daughter Florence Jolly, heer Australian-born machinist husband James B. Jolly, and their son Harold B. Jolly. 

William Henry Rogers did not die in British Columbia. There is no information on him in the BC Archives Vital Events Listings. A search of his name on seems to indicate that he may have immigrated to the United States. William and Lily's names are listed in a manifest of alien passengers entering the US on September 24, 1916 by boat in Seattle.
        Rogers and a partner named McKay applied for a building permit for a frame store and dwelling on Lot 34 of Block 76 of District Lot 196 on November 3, 1908. Estimated cost to construct the building was $3000. 

Page from 1909 City Directory showing North Side of Keefer
The first business to occupy the building was a bakery named Wilson & Sugden run by New Brunswick-born Harry C. Wilson and Ontario native Frank Leslie Sugden. Wilson and his wife Susan and their daughter Muriel lived above the bakery. 

Harry Clifford Wilson was born in St. John, New Brunswick, the son of George Emery Wilson and Elizabeth Floyd. His wife, Susan Roach Barnes, was born in Nappan, Nova Scotia on August 16, 1883, the daughter of Silas Barnes and Hosannah Harrison. Susan came to Vancouver in 1908. Both Harry and Susan were Methodists. 
       On June 29, 1909, 28 year-old Harry married 25 year-old Susan at the Central Methodist Church Manse at 474 East Pender. The Rev. A. M. Sanford presided. 

Central (Princess St.) Methodist Church by Philip Timms in 1905 VPL #6838
Harry Wilson’s partner, Frank Leslie Sugden, lived at 653 East Cordova. He was born in Zephyr, Ontario on January 25, 1885, the son of Benjamin Sugden and Mary Pickering. His wife, Ida Hynes Andrews, was born in Brigus, Newfoundland on November 23, 1875, the daughter of Ross Andrews and Elizabeth Mercer. They were married on November 29, 1910 at 657 Grove (Atlantic) Street by the Rev. S. S. Osterhout.
       Later on two businesses, a grocery store run by Ontario-born Peter Torrance and a bakery called Reynolds & Callow’s run by William Reynolds and Peter Callow, occupied the building.

By 1915, the grocery was taken over by Chinese immigrant Quan Tsang and renamed the False Creek Grocery but the business only lasted a year—probably due to financial difficulties brought on by WWI. Up until about 1919 the storefront remained empty.
From 1921 to 1928 the building was taken over by Russian-born merchant immigrant Louis Halperin who ran a fish-canning business called BC Distributors Company Ltd. on the premises. By the eve of the Great Depression, 733 Keefer became the home of Vancouver Broom & Brush Manufacturers, but they only lasted about two years.

 By 1931 the storefront was again empty. Then in 1938, 733 Keefer became the home of the congregation of the Canada Nichiren Buddhist Church カナダ日蓮佛教. Prior to its move to 733 Keefer, the Canada Nichiren Buddhist Church had been located across the alley at 722 East Pender. Rev. Yohaku Arakawa (1905-1996) was a revered Japanese missionary of Nichiren Buddhism to the United States and Canada. From 1930 to 1939 he was the head minister of the Canada Nichiren Buddhist Church in Vancouver. 

Canada Nichiren Buddhist Church in 1938
In 1939 Rev. Arakawa was transferred to the Portland Nichiren Temple. In 1942 he and his family were interned at the Minidoka internment camp in Idaho until 1945. Upon release from the camp he returned to Portland. In 1951 he established a temple in Toronto with the help of Rev. Senzo Ikushima. Later on, the church was taken over by Rev. Zenkei Fukazawa, who remained minister of the church there until 1942 when the entire Nikkei community was forcibly removed from the West Coast during World War II.

Clergy and Members of the Canada Nichiren Buddhist Church in 1938
From 1942 to 1944, a Black couple, Robert “Roy” B. & Maude L. Harris, lived in the house. Roy worked as a porter for the Pullman Company.  He was born in Sulphur Springs, Texas, the son of Cyrus Harris and Ophelia Lewis. His wife, Maude Lascelle Head was born in Victoria, BC, the daughter of rancher Frederick London Head and Beatrice Taylor. Robert was Baptist and Maude was Episcopal. On April 30, 1919 Robert married Maude at Christ Church Cathedral. The Rev. C. C. Owen presided. At the time, Robert was a resident of Bellingham, Washington and Maude was living at East Sound, Washington.
In 1945, a grocer named Charles H. Creer lived and worked out of the storefront.  Charles Henry Creer was born in Liverpool, England on August 2, 1902 and came to Canada in 1926 and to BC in 1933. Single all his life, he moved to White Rock, BC in 1949. In later life he worked as a parcel post worker from 1959 to 1965. He died at home at 3475 King George highway in White Rock on May 28, 1965 at the age of 62.
In 1946, the grocery was taken over by Joseph U. and H. Comtois and operated as the Comtois Brothers for a year. The Comtois brothers were from Quebec. Then in 1947 grocer Quong Wing took over the business and ran it for two years. There is no information on Quong Wing in the BC Archives Vital Events listings. 
      In 1949 Chee Kew Wong moved in and ran a café from the storefront called Betty’s Light Lunch. Che Kew Wong and his wife Mah Hee lived at 733 Keefer until 1954 when farmer Yun Ho Chang and his wife Young Yin Tom moved in. Yun Ho Chang was born in China on May 15, 1887 the son of Yown Wah Chang and See Fong. Yun worked as a general laborer for most of his life. He died at Mount St. Joseph’s Hospital on March 6, 1985 at the age of 97 and was buried in Ocean View.
From 1956 to 1963, farmer Bo Hoy Chang lived at 733 Keefer. The Chang family seems to have held on to the property for longer. A renter, retiree Jang Chong Low lived in the house from 1964 to 1966 but from 1967 to 1970 Chang family members return with farmer Yun H. Chang and his wife Young living at 733 Keefer.

Photo courtesy of Victor and Jennifer Ho.
 733 Keefer continued to be a family home until the 1990s when the house was bought by artist and photographer Kiku Hawkes and her partner, sound technician, Rick Patton.

Rick Patton. Photo courtesy of Kiku Hawkes
Kiku continues to use the storefront part of the house as her studio. It is a popular stop during the annual East Side Culture Crawl.

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