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Yue Shan Society Buildings

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

Formally Recognized: 2003/01/14

Exterior view of Yue Shan Society Buildings; City of Vancouver, 2004
Front facade - 33-39 East Pender Street
Exterior view of Yue Shan Society Buildings; City of Vancouver, 2004
Rear facade - 37 East Pender Street
Exterior view of Yue Shan Society Buildings; City of Vancouver, 2004
Front facade - 41-47 East Pender Street

Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2009/02/12

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Yue Shan Society Buildings include a complex of three buildings that surround a central courtyard. The two buildings facing Pender Street are separated by a narrow alley. The three buildings have secondary street addresses, as follows:
1) a two-storey building on the east of a narrow alley: 41-47 East Pender Street;
2) a three-storey building on the west of a narrow alley: 33-39 East Pender Street; and
3) a three-storey building on the north abutting the lane: 37 East Pender Street

Heritage Value

The historical significance of the Yue Shan Society Buildings lies in the arrangement of buildings around a small central courtyard, which was a common urban form in early 20th century Chinatown, but today is probably the only remaining example still in residential use.

41-47 East Pender Street is a two-storey, five-bay building built in 1889. Ground floor retail uses have included a grocery store, a drug store, a dry goods store, and tailor shop. The second floor was used as residences for Chinese men, presumably single working men. Subsequently, the second floor has been used by different societies.

33-39 East Pender Street is a three-storey brick building and is a good example of the type of building erected in Chinatown during its redevelopment in the early 1920s. The building is particularly important because it was designed by W.H. Chow, the only identified Chinese-Canadian architect practising at the time. It represents the distinctive Chinatown style of architecture, demonstrating Chow's continuing use of expressed party walls sandwiching recessed balconies and building-wide windows. W.H. Chow managed to surmount both the legal and the informal hurdles that prevented most of Vancouver's early Chinese from entering professions. Chow designed several other Chinatown buildings, including Ming's Restaurant at 141-147 East Pender, which has been extensively altered over the years. Despite his design and construction experience, W.H. Chow was not recognized as an architect because, at that time, Chinese were not allowed to enter any professional society.

The building was designed with retail stores on the ground floor. The second floor had previously been leased out to a Chinese restaurant and to the Chinese Workers Protective Association between 1931-43. At present, half of the second floor is leased to the Association of Lau Clansmen of Canada, while the remaining portion of the floor is used by the Yue Shan Society. The third floor has been fully occupied by the Yue Shan Society since 1943. The Yue Shan Society provides aid to immigrants from Pan Yu (Yu Shan) County, near Guangzhou, China. This place-based society represents one of the ways in which Chinese immigrants organized to support each other.

The three-storey tenement at 37 East Pender Street, which faces the back lane, was likely constructed in 1914. The two upper floors contain living quarters with a variety of room sizes, which reflect the demographic structure of Chinatown.

Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of the Yue Shan Society Buildings include:
- location on the north side of Pender Street, Chinatown's 'main street'
- dual aspect, with frontages on both Pender Street and the lane
- narrow alleyway leading to a central courtyard
- mixture of uses, including single-room residential, retail, and institutional

33-39 East Pender Street
- three-storey construction on the west side of a narrow alley
- metal cornice set against brick parapet
- party walls expressed on street frontage
- building-width fenestration
- arrangement of glazing bars, transoms and mullions
- taller top storey accommodating a meeting hall
- recessed balconies with globe luminaires
- 'cheater storey' over storefront at street level
- single off-centre entry to staircase, causing central storefront to be offset from the otherwise symmetrical elevation

41-47 East Pender Street
- two-storey building on the east side of a narrow alley
- single central entry and symmetrical elevation
- modest Italianate style elements, such as the decorative brackets below the cornice, and the five tall narrow windows on the second floor

37 East Pender Street
- three-storey building, masonry construction
- location on the north of the property abutting the lane
- residential use



British Columbia

Recognition Authority

City of Vancouver

Recognition Statute

Vancouver Charter, s.593

Recognition Type

Heritage Designation

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Trade and Commerce
Building Social and Community Life
Community Organizations
Peopling the Land
Migration and Immigration

Function - Category and Type



Commerce / Commercial Services
Shop or Wholesale Establishment
Group Residence

Architect / Designer

W.H. Chow



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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