Friday, December 17, 2010

Chinese Freemasons and Silk

This corner building has the address of 1 East Pender. But that isn't what gives the building historical significance.

This is the Chinese Times Building. It has a row of retail spaces on the ground level and residential units on the upper. It was built in 1902 by leading architect W.T. Whiteway for his client Yip Sang.

Sang, as you may remember when I wrote on him earlier, was a prominent Chinese Canadian businessman. He was responsible for the Wing Sang Company and fathered 23 children with four wives. (Someone I spoke with today knows one of Sang's grandsons) Sang was also a social reformer and political activist. Born into poverty in 1845 he emigrated to North America and worked hard to gain the prosperity he did.

This building has also had two notable tenants. One being the Chee Kung Tong also known as the Chinese Freemasons. This fraternal order can trace its history back to the earliest Chinese immigration to British Columbia in 1858.  

Another noted tenant was the Chinese Times newspaper which was owned by the Chinese Freemasons. Both organzations were heavily involved in the politics in China.  The Times operated out of this building from 1930 to about 1990.
27 East Pender Street was constructed in 1910 by architect R.J. Macdonald. This building has a distinct Chinatown style with vertical proportions, four storeys high (some only have three storeys) one or more of the upper floors has recessed balconies and facing the street is building wide glazing.
The metal cornice, added in 1914, adds to the unique appearance of this building.

The ground floor of this building has been home to a succession of retail businesses such as a grocery store, a restaurant and a silk merchant. (Currently Bombast Furniture is there and their items look excellent.)

This was the silk merchant that resided at this address for many years. The owner, a woman in her nineties, died last year I think I was told and her obituary revealed some facts. Like that she used to design for Diana Ross and the Supremes and the ladies would often visit for fittings etc when they were in town.

This is the roof as you walk towards the door. Interesting.
Another historical fact to this building is another of its residents.

The Hon Hsing Athletic Association is probably one of the first organized Chinese martial arts classes in Canada. They were established in 1938 and are an example of clan based organziations endeavouring to provide activities to the younger people. The organization known as the Wongs were responsible for the formation of this athletic club and it wasn't until 1960 that they allowed non asians to join.

I admit that I was a bit sneaky today when I got this photo. It is getting pretty close to the area where I could be harmed if someone took offense to my taking photos but I was standing far enough away that hopefully no one really noticed.

This is the West Hotel at 488 Carrall Street which was built from 1910 to 1912 and was used for decades for the intinerant population of male resource workers. In the winter when the logging camps were shut down men would lounge on the sidewalk and then go into the bar to drink. Not much has changed except maybe the residents are not as productive in the summer.

Ming Wo Cookware has been around since 1917 but this building was built in 1913 and by the only identified Chinese-Canadian architect at the time, W.H. Chow. The structure has a lot of the same characteristics as its neighbour, 27 East Pender.

One of Chinatown's wealthiest and most successful businessmen, Wong Soon King, originally owned this building. He was not only smart in business but helped shape the physical form of Chinatown with his tireless campaigns on City Hall for improvements such as sidewalks.

Although the lower level is designated for retail the upper floors contain meeting rooms and offices and small residential rooms. In the first third of the twentieth century tenants included the Kong Chow Benevolent Association and the Hong Kong Club.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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