Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Yee King Yum Building is on the east side of Fan Tan Alley in the heart of Victoria’s Chinatown. It is a three-storey vernacular brick building with continuous ground-floor storefronts and segmental-arched upper-floor window openings and one of nine interconnected buildings and additions with front facades on Fan Tan Alley, a narrow mid-block passageway that links Pandora Avenue to Fisgard Street. There is another mid-block passageway on the north side of the building that leads to the west. It is internally connected to the Loo Tai Cho Building at 549-555 Fisgard Street.
The Yee King Yum Building is valued as part of a grouping of early buildings that contribute to the historic character and urban pattern of Victoria's Chinatown, the seminal and oldest intact Chinatown in Canada. It is part of the final phase of infill in historic Fan Tan Alley. Seventy-three metres long and between one to two metres wide and enclosed by nine interconnected buildings and additions, Fan Tan Alley’s significance lies in the duality of its architecture and cultural landscape. On each block, street façades link together, forming a wall that shields interior spaces and narrow alleyways between and through buildings are linked to central courtyards which were the hidden location of tenements, opium dens, theatres and gambling houses. This configuration allowed the Chinese community to adhere to follow traditional religion, kinship and economic practices while projecting the image of assimilation to Western society. The buildings of Fan Tan Alley are simple, utilitarian structures, which served as a private enclave and refuge for Chinese pioneers.
Located on lots 444 on Fisgard Street and 439 on Pandora Street, the buildings facing Fisgard and Pandora Streets were constructed between 1882 and 1901, with sidewalls that started to define a narrow mid-block passageway. The four remaining infill sites facing Fan Tan Alley were built from 1912 to 1920. Separated by a narrow alley from the Loo Tai Cho Building, the Yee King Lum Building was constructed in 1913 in an interior courtyard. Unlike other buildings in the alley, it is set back slightly from the Fan Tan Alley lot line; access to the upper-floor tenements is at each end of the building. Two popular gambling outfits were located here: 'Bringing in Profit' and 'Happy & Profitable'. At the time, gambling was on the rise with increased tensions from the impending Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923. The Act was repealed in 1947, after which many of the gambling dens in Fan Tan Alley began to close down. It survives as the only early mid-block passageway that is completely framed by historic buildings.
The building is also valuable as an example of the work of Thomas Hooper (1857-1935), one of the most important early architects in British Columbia. Hooper designed numerous buildings in Vancouver, Victoria and elsewhere around the province, including many projects in Victoria’s Chinatown. The Yee King Yum Building demonstrates an early use of a reinforced concrete structure, evident in the interior columns and continuous storefront lintel.
Source: City of Victoria Planning Department
Key elements that define the heritage character the Yee King Yum Building include its:
- location on the east side of Fan Tan Alley, part of a grouping of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century historic masonry buildings in Victoria's Chinatown National Historic Site
- continuous commercial and residential use
- commercial form, scale and massing, as expressed by its three-storey height, symmetrical rectangular plan, flat roof, storefronts facing Fan Tan Alley, and upper-floor tenements
- construction materials, including red brick walls, reinforced concrete structure, continuous concrete storefront lintel, concrete window sills and sheet-metal cornice at parapet level
- vernacular detailing, such as ground-floor brick piers, wooden storefronts, narrow doorways at each end of the building leading to the upper-floor tenements, and segmental-arched upper-floor structural openings
- windows such as original six-over-one double-hung wooden-sash windows, one-over-one double-hung wooden sash windows, and hopper windows in storefronts
- remnants of Chinese gambling den signage
Local Governments (BC)
Local Government Act, s.954
Community Heritage Register
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Trade and Commerce
Function - Category and Type
- Multiple Dwelling
- Commerce / Commercial Services
- Shop or Wholesale Establishment
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
City of Victoria Planning Department
Cross-Reference to Collection