Friday, September 30, 2011


I was going to tell you about my trip to an open house at the local fire department but when I was doing research and looking for what to write on I found that there is a book all on the history of the Vancouver Fire Department. So I have requested it from the library and once I receive it and read it, I am going to do a few entries on our local fire department.

So today we'll look at 1934 and see photos of this beautiful city.

On January 1 there was a huge riot in the 100 blocks of East Pender in Chinatown. Police reserves fought for more than an hour to disperse the mobs and finally the fire department was called in to spray the unruly crowd with high pressure hoses. And what started the riot? A Chinese taxi driver got into an altercation with his Caucasian passenger and the driver allegedly hit the white man over the head with a hammer.

The Vancouver Library Board accepted the city's help  on January 5 to reopen the Library's reading room which had been closed the previous year due to lack of funds.

Prime Minister R.B. Bennett spoke at the Vancouver Board of Trades 47th anniversary dinner. It was held on January 19, 193 at the Hotel Vancouver. Bennett said that "Canada is a world example of successful weathering of this depression." I bet there were lots of homeless, unemployed men and families who would have disagreed.
On February 1 the Vienna Choir Boys performed in Vancouver.

May 13 acting Premier A. Wells Gray cut the ribbon on a new 25-bed children's hospital at 250 West 59th Avenue. Although the hospital had opened the year earlier the official ceremony had been delayed due to a scarlet fever outbreak.

(these photos are from the Chinatown Festival I attended this summer)

The first sod was turned for the Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park on May 21.

Future BC Premier Bill Vander Zalm (1986-1991) was born in Noordwykerhout, the Netherlands on May 29. His full name is His full birth name was Wilhelmus Nicholaas Theodore Marie Vander Zalm.

Jimmy McLarnin, a Vancouver boxer who had won the welterweight championship in 1933, lost it to Barney Ross. I think this happened in May - no date is listed - and McLarnin won the title back later that year in September. He held it until May of 1935.

The first regional library in North America - the Fraser Valley Union Library District - was established with headquarters in Abbotsford during June of 1934.

July 1, Canada Day, the first United Airlines Flight arrived at the Vancouver Airport.

On July 8 the first performance of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra was held at the Malkin Bowl to celebrate the official opening of the bowl. Years later Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) would make their home there and a group called the Home Gas Orchestra often played there.

On July 13 Coquitlam councillor Thomas Douglas was shot dead at his North Road gas station. Because Douglas was a socialist - he had run provincially for the United Front, a socialist party - some thought that the murder was politically motivated.

On November 17 a conservative MLA R.H. Pooley made the Province's front page by accusing UBC professors of teaching communism to the students.

Also in November of 1934 the newly reconstructed Second Narrows Bridge opened. "The span over the real ships' channel,” engineering historian Robert Harris wrote, “was rebuilt as a 85.3-metre lift span, hoisted between two new steel towers."

On December 13 Gerald Grattan “Gerry” McGeer, 46, was swept into the mayoralty with the largest lead in Vancouver history. He received 25,000 votes out of 44,000 and ended the political career of Vancouver's most elected mayor - L.D. Taylor.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Panels on Powell

Today we are continuing our stroll through Japantown and the first place I am showing you is the Maikawa Department Store at 365 Powell Street. The Maikawa and Co General Store opened at this location in 1908. It quickly became the largest commercial operation on Powell Street.

Tomekichi Maikawa owned this operation while his two brothers also opened stores on the same block. Behind their stores was a boarding house for their employees - most employees were Japanese immigrants. In the 1930s the Maikawa family businesses took over most of the north side of the block. In 1936 two lots were consolidated and architect T.L. Kerr was hired to design a new Art Deco style building. (Interesting fact. The original store is behind the Art Deco facade) And, if you look at the top photos, the name Maikawa is still visible across the front.

The Hotel Yebisuya shows an attempt by the Japanese to fit in with the rest of Vancouver. This Edwardian-Commercial, bay-windowed design building is typical of other structures built in Vancouver in 1907. To this day a person can see similar buildings along Main Street and Commercial Drive.

This building was originally three stories and the Hotel Yebisuya was a rooming house for seasonal workers while the retail spaces on the ground floors had Japanese run businesses such as the Ikeda Barbershop, Nabata shoemaker, cafes, restaurants, a meat shop, a tailor and a pool room.

This cheery building is now the home of Doulble Happiness Food Limited but it has been many things since it was built around 1907. At least that is when part of it was built.
Hatsume Watchmaker has resided here as has Hori's Coffee Shop and Hitose-Yu Bathhouse. The bathhouse was one of five Japanese style ofuro bathhouses. Bathers would thoroughly scrub before entering a large, communal hot tub. Clients were charged five to ten cents at these bathhouses with items such as towels, soaps and washcloths being supplied by the bathhouse. Hitose-Yu Bathhouse ran from 1936 - 1942. 

441 Powell Street has been home to Russ Rooming House from 1898 to 1902; the Uchida Family from 1908 to 1942 and Wakabyashi Tofu was located here from approximately the 1920s to 1942.

Many families lived in small apartments above the business they ran on the street level.

In 1906 393 Powell Street was Ebata Japanese Goods. Three years later the Canadian News was here and during the 1930s it was home to Maple/Victory Rooms. Tsuruda Sewing was here in 1941.

Some of the information for this post and a few former entries has been garnered from panels on the sides of certain buildings in Japantown that are part of the Open Doors Project. Panels like this.

When I attend the Powell Street Festival I picked up a small notice on these panels and it is such a joy to see people taking such pride in their history and informing others of what was once here.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Homes and Dry Goods

On August 15 I had written an entry about panels depicting the history of certain buildings in Japantown. I had found some information on other places on that time so I walked back and got more photos.

This is the Dales House at 414 Alexander Street. It is one of the oldest houses in Vancouver and was built for T.J. Dales in 1889.

Alexander Street was the first part of the city to get piped water and since it was so close to Hastings Mill a residential area of substantial homes quickly followed.

Alexander Street was a major residential street for Japanese pioneers and this house was home to Japanese tenants as early as 1911. In 1927 the house was bought by Isokichi Yamazaki - which is evidence of the growing prosperity of the Japanese community in the twenties. The Japanese were going from being tenants to land owners.

This is an important building due to its size, era, scale and rarity. It is also the last of its kind in Vancouver. I saw the archival photo and the original house was quite different. Originally the house had a high Victorian pediment and turret but those have both been remodelled over the years. (The archival photo was taken in 1890)

Despite the fact that those changes have been made, the house has been raised and covered with asphalt shingles, it is still a testimony to the thriving residential past of Japantown.

There are only two historic buildings left in the 20 block of Powell Street and the Komura Building at 269 Powell Street is one of them. The Japanese Canadian community began and radiated out from here. This building is an example of an early Edwardian corner building built sometime in 1905 for George Stevens.

The building first appeared in the city directories in 1906 as Komura Bros. General Store. Hiyujito Komura went from tenant to building owner in 1911 when he purchased the building.

The Komura Bros. General Store was in operation from 1906 until everything was taken from those of Japanese descent by the government in 1941. There is a mosaic tile in the front which still bears the Komura name.

Morimot and Co. Dry Goods is at 326-328 Powell Street and was built in 1912. The first tenants of this building were a Japanese tea room on street level, Japanese rooms in the upper floors and the Kane Shooting Gallery in the basement.

The rental portion of the building has stayed the same although it has changed names over the years. It has been called the Stanley Rooms then the King Rooms.

The tea room evolved into a dry goods store, run by various Japanese owners. The funny thing is that although this building is known in Morimoto and the name is still visible in one of the entrances, U. Morimoto and Co. only leased this building for two years (1920-1921).

This was also the address for the Canadian Japanese Social Athletic Club in the 1920s.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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