Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Walking with History

Saturday I went on a history walk with our guide James Johnstone. The walk was through the Strathcona area and this man is a wealth of information.

This house was built in 1889 and its address was then was 668 Hastings. Now it is 401 Heatley but the streets didn't change. No, instead the house was moved back and two other buildings have been added to fill the space between the house and the street.

The building that says Heatley block was built in the 1930s and faces Hastings Street. The other one is in between the 1889 house and Heatley block and has an address on Heatley.

I was once told by a psychic that there is a psychic crack along East Pender which is one street over. And I may have an inkling on one of the reasons for that.

This house belonged to one of the first undertakers in Vancouver. It is located on the corner of East Pender and Heatley.

During the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic people were dying so fast that the undertaker couldn't keep up with processing the bodies. So he would stack them in this nearby alley and cover them with a tarp.

Perhaps the spirits of those bodies are still roaming the area. Who knows?

The Strathcona area grew up around the Hastings Sawmill, one of the main employers at the time. Today many residents associate the area with the Asians and maybe a few Italians. However these district has seen a great influx of arriving immigrants. One quote I read from a person who had gone to the Strathcona school said that there were 95 nationalites there are the time. Quite a lot!

This is the top of what was once a Jewish Synagogue. It was built in 1911 but in 1945 a new synagogue was built in another area of town and this place was sold. Now it is condos.

This delightful plant shows that the Italians were here at one time. It is fennel used to freshen breath. Also an ingredient in diuretic tea. And a favorite among Italians.

Look at this wall. It looks like cobblestones doesn't it?

Johnstone regaled us with stories of past residents. From Nora Hendrix, Jimi Hendrix's grandmother who once lived here:

to stories of bootleggers like the kindly Italian lady who lived here.

And I bet some of you people reading this thought that we Canadians were such law abiding souls! To tell the truth there were a few bootleggers in the Strathcona district that ended up serving jail time. Stories like that just add a bit of spice to the place.

It has also been the home to Michael Buble's maternal grandmother, K.D. Lang, author/poet Daphne Marlett who still lives there and so many others.

This is one I found really interesting and it was at the end of the tour. For six months the elder Hendrixs lived here but more notable was that it was a residence of Nellie Kip Quong.

Now you may ask why that is so important and it is because who this woman was. She was a Caucasian woman who married a Vancouver Chinese jeweller. In 1900. And for those people who complain about the difficulties of an interracial relationship today must realize how difficult it would have been 110 years ago.

But Nellie didn't let that deter her. She learned five Chinese dialects so that she could converse within her adopted community. She became a midwife and aided many immigrant Chinese. She also took on the role of adoption broker and foster mother.

Nellie Yip Quong was an advocate for her community, fighting to improve standards of health and life. She was affectionately known as Granny Yip and this house is where she lived during her later years. One day I will have to get a photo of where she and her husband lived for 17 years.

There is so much information on this area. I will be making many more blog entries about it and using bits and pieces that Johnstone told me. As well I will be going back to get photos of the places I missed.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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