Market Alley is an alley between Pender and Hastings Streets in Chinatown. We entered from Carrall Street. This alley was once a hubbub of activity with storefronts, gambling halls and opium dens. (At one time opium was legal in Canada.)
34 Market Alley - the doorway I am showing you now - is significant. During the 1907 riots - when the white men stormed Chinatown and later Japantown - windows were broken at this address. The owners of the establishment filed a claim with the federal government for compensation and our future Prime Minister, Mackenzie King, came out to assess the damage. He was aghast to find out that the dealt with opium. He then proceeded to have legislation passed that made the use of opiates illegal. Ironically there was another establishment a couple of doors down that escaped King's notice. They didn't file a claim for damages.
Our guide, John Atkin, told us an interesting story about this place. Two young men lived in this hotel and both were avid about airplanes. They ordered a kit to build an airplane and assembled it in the hotel. They would put together a wing and store it in one area of the hotel then the fuselage in another area and so one. Once everything was put together a friend helped them move the pieces out of the hotel to Richmond where the final assembly took place and one of the brothers - a licensed pilot - flew the plane. It actually did fly. You may wonder how these two men got away with putting this thing together in the hotel but it may have helped that their parents owned the building.
The building itself is interesting as well. It is built around a courtyard that you cannot enter directly. That way if the law was going to try to raid the place the gamblers would have enough warning to clear out before the officers got there
So, apparently, this building actually wraps around the block. A person would never know it just looking at the structure. How clever!
This is also the alley where the back of the Pantages Theatre is. John was telling us that the building has been gutted and the roof is being removed as we could see. Sad that we are losing that treasure. But when the city is making cuts to the fire department then how can a person logically expect them to keep paying for a building that nothing can be done with? After all it is in the center of skid row and I know people who are afraid to go down there in the daytime.
I love the history and the secrets these buildings hold. But I am logical as well. We can't save them all, sadly economics and priorities mean that the city can't maintain every building. That is also why what I, and others like me, do is so important. We are preserving the history for the future. Personally I don't make money off of this blog - it is a labor of love. Because I have posted these photos on the Internet they will probably always be here.
I hope you find the beauty around you.
Karen Magill, John Atkin, Vancouver,Vancouver Heritage Foundation,Blue Eagle Cafe, Market Alley,History,City Hall