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Sun Ah Hotel

100 East Pender Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6A, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2003/01/14

Exterior view of Sun Ah Hotel; City of Vancouver, 2004
Rear elevation
Exterior view of Sun Ah Hotel; City of Vancouver, 2004
East Pender Street and Columbia Street elevations
No Image

Other Name(s)

Sun Ah Hotel
Loo G. Wing Building
Lung Kong Kung Shaw Association Building
Ho Ho Restaurant

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1911/01/01 to 1912/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2007/07/19

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Sun Ah Hotel is a five-storey brick building situated on the southeast corner of East Pender and Columbia Streets in Vancouver’s historic Chinatown.

Heritage Value

The Sun Ah Hotel has heritage value because of its associations with important persons, patterns, and institutions in Chinatown and Vancouver. Heritage value is also found in the architecture and the important role it played in shaping East Pender Street, Chinatown’s main commercial and community street.

This building was constructed in 1911-12 for Loo Gee Wing, a leading Chinatown merchant. Like some other successful Chinese merchants, Loo had made his fortune during the Gold Rush and invested in real estate both within and outside Chinatown, helping to shape the appearance of the city. Heritage value resides in the association with Loo, and also with the Lung Kong Kung Shaw Association (now the Lung Kong Tien Yee Association), which has owned the property since 1926. This is an uncommon four-surname society, based on the traditions of the Peach Garden Oath, in which four heroic figures of different surnames came together in brotherhood to address the problems of China.

Additional heritage value is found in the long association of the building with the Ho Ho Restaurant (ground floor and mezzanine) and the Sun Ah Hotel (upper floors). The Ho Ho Restaurant, which opened in 1954, was owned and operated by the Quon family; since the late 1990s it has operated under different ownership. The eatery represented one of the numerous restaurants and curio shops that opened in Chinatown after World War II to cater to non-Chinese curiosity and tastes. It indicates an important warming in attitudes towards the city’s Chinese, as well as a new phase in Chinatown’s commercial development. Upstairs, the Sun Ah Hotel’s 48 rooms were typical of the small, crowded, lodgings available to working-class Chinese men. Perhaps it was some of these men who were – on repeated occasions – sanctioned for gambling on the premises in 1915-18.

The building also has value for its architecture. Designed by the partnership of R.T. Perry and R.A. Nicolais, it is tall and narrow, with four storeys and a mezzanine but only three bays wide, common to the newest buildings of the period along Pender Street and those that would be designed in the following decade. The rear half of the building was originally two storeys lower. The relatively plain Commercial Style facade lacks the recessed balconies characteristic of many of those buildings, and which are seen in the Chinese Benevolent Association Building (1909) next door at 104 East Pender Street. The present structure illustrates a transition between the predominant European-Canadian and Chinese-Canadian manners of design.

Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of the Sun Ah Hotel include:
- Principal elevation to East Pender Street; secondary elevation to Columbia Street
- Sculptural qualities of the architecture, achieved by the use of brick for walls and decorative relief on the top storey, and features such as the stone sills connecting pairs of windows, by string courses made of soldier-coursed bricks, by the sword-motif relief brick panels, and by windows set into deep reveals
- The relatively poor quality of the low-fired brick, the mediocre standard of bricklaying, and the variations in colour of the brick (which indicate the variations in the clay supply)
- Features of the facade that indicate the principal front, including curbed parapets on the East Pender Street elevation and the first structural bay on the return elevation, and the large windows facing East Pender Street and smaller windows on Columbia Street
- The large structural opening at street level that indicates the extent of the original storefront and mezzanine
- Features of the party wall that illustrate function and structure within, including the chimney stacks atop the parapet and the blocked openings
- Features that contribute to the interest of the rooftop silhouette, including the stair cover structure at the southwest corner
- Remnants of the original joinery, including double-hung vertical sliding sash windows and elements of the storefront, the stairs and the baseboard within the entry off East Pender Street
- The evidence of a basement, including the windows at pavement level, their metal grilles in the shape of a Chinese character, and the margin delineated in the pavement that suggests the extent of the original open well area
- Remnants of former signage, including the fastenings of the former neon sign advertising ‘Ho Ho Chop Suey’
- The ‘New Sun Ah’ sign at the corner of the building
- The long-time use of the ground floor use for restaurant/retail and the upper floors for residential rooms

Recognition

Jurisdiction

British Columbia

Recognition Authority

City of Vancouver

Recognition Statute

Vancouver Charter, s.593

Recognition Type

Heritage Designation

Recognition Date

2003/01/14

Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

n/a

Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Trade and Commerce
Building Social and Community Life
Community Organizations

Function - Category and Type

Current

Historic

Commerce / Commercial Services
Eating or Drinking Establishment
Commerce / Commercial Services
Hotel, Motel or Inn
Community
Social, Benevolent or Fraternal Club

Architect / Designer

R.T. Perry and R.A. Nicolais

Builder

n/a

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier

DhRs-138

Status

Published

Related Places

n/a

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