Vintage Photographs from Chinatown

Vancouver’s Chinatown was established the same year the City of Vancouver was incorporated, 1886. At that time there were about 90 Chinese residents who had established a community along Carrall Street and East Pender Street (known as Dupont at the time). By the 1890’s there were more than 1,000 residents living within Chinatown. Due to this overcrowding, many workers had to share a single room. The buildings in Chinatown feature hybrid architecture that combine established Western motifs and Chinese regional construction.

190-? – Living quarters inside the Wing Sang Company building at 51 East Pender Street.

Chinese Canadians were the target of much racial discrimination and anti-Asian political movements dating back to 1871. They lost their right to vote, were subject to the Head Tax of 1885, and suffered segregation in both housing and employment. The Chinese Immigration Act, which was essentially an exclusion act barring new Chinese immigrants from entering Canada, devastated the Chinatown community. Fewer than 100 Chinese immigrants entered the country between 1923 and 1947, when the act was finally overturned. To help combat ongoing discrimination, the Chinese Benevolent Association was founded that helped lead the decades long fight for equal treatment and voting rights.

1900 – Yip Sang with children and family members in front of Wing Sang Company building at 51 East Pender.

Today, Chinatown remains a vibrant community with close ties to its cultural roots. Many of the historic buildings are protected under provincial and municipal heritage legislation. The entire Chinatown community was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 2011.

1906 – View of Dupont Street, later Pender Street, Chinatown area.
1910 – Chinese Benevolent Association building at 108 East Pender Street.
1910 – Chinese Times building at the northeast corner of Pender and Carrall Streets.
1920 – D.J. Elmer Wholesale Tobacconist, 27 Pender Street West, delivery trucks and staff in front of warehouse.
192-? – Photo of several men who were part of a Chinese business association. Wong Mow (owner of Modern Silk Company; later called Modern Shirt Company) is second from left. Yucho Chow (studio photographer) is fifth from left.
1924 – Interior photo of the Ming Wo Hardware store (later known as Ming Wo Cookware). The owner, Wong Chew Lip, stands on the right of the photo. Ming Wo was located at 23 East Pender Street in Vancouver. In the first few decades, Ming Wo was primarily a hardware store. It eventually started supplying equipment to restaurants in the area and slowly became known as a cookware store. At one point, it even produced bean sprouts in the basement of the building and supplied the sprouts to local Chinese restaurants.
1924 – Street photo showing the front of the Ming Wo store at 23 East Pender Street.
1925 – Third floor of the Wing Sang Building decorated for Yip Sang’s 80th birthday.
1928 – Chinese Fairgrounds opening.
1930 – Car in alley in Chinatown.
1930 – Men reading posted newspapers in Chinatown.
1933 – Market Alley.
1936 – Exterior photograph of Yucho Chow Studio at 518 Main Street, Vancouver. The photo shows Yucho Chow standing in front of the store with two of his sons: Peter Chow (second from left) and Jack Chow (far right) as well as unidentified Caucasian man. This photo was taken after 1935 a fire partially destroyed some his studio. The fire began in the rooming house next [door] and spread to the studio.
1936 – A float in a parade in Chinatown.
1936 – Parade in Chinatown.
1936 – Chinese Pagoda in Chinatown for Golden Jubilee.
1937 – Men reading posted newspapers in Chinatown.
1939 – Funeral procession through Chinatown.
1939 – Photograph showing the public funeral for Mr. Fong Ting Lim (Lin Huan Ting), president of the Chinese Benevolent Association.
1943 – Photo of front of the Yucho Chow photo studio at 518 Main Street. Chow operated the studio from this location (his fourth location) from 1930 until his death in 1949.
1943 – Vancouver Chinese Public School students and staff in front of school building.
1944 – Members of the Chinatown Air Raid Patrol at the Chinese Benevolent Association.
1945 – VJ Day celebrations in Chinatown.
1945 – Chinese lion in Victory celebration parade in Chinatown.
1945 – Chinese musicians playing during VJ day celebrations in Chinatown.
1945 – Victory celebration parade in Chinatown.
1945 – Crowds in street in Chinatown during VJ Day celebrations.

For even more historical collections, please refer to these previous posts: Old Photographs of Coal Harbour, Vintage Photos of Stanley Park, and Old Photographs of Beaches in Vancouver.

1948 – Old Bldg. in Chinatown [Pender St. and Shanghai Alley].

The photos above were collected from the City of Vancouver Archives. If you’re interested, additional information can be found for each photograph on their website. Stay tuned for additional posts featuring historical photos from Vancouver, British Columbia, and across Western Canada. We’d love to know what you think in the comment section below.