Home / Accueil

Ming Wo Building

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

Formally Recognized: 2003/01/14

Exterior view of the Ming Wo Building; City of Vancouver, 2004
Front facade
No Image
No Image

Other Name(s)

Ming Wo Building
Ming Wo Cookware

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2007/07/30

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Ming Wo Building, at 23 East Pender Street, is a four-storey brick building, incorporating a store, residential accommodation, and a meeting room, in the heart of Vancouver's historic Chinatown.

Heritage Value

The Ming Wo Building is important as an early example of a distinct Chinatown architectural style, for being the earliest known representative of this style credited to a Chinese-Canadian designer, and for its associations with a number of economic enterprises that were important to Chinatown, including one of Chinatown's most enduring retail business.

Constructed in 1913, the heritage value of this building is derived from it being the first building with street frontage known to have been designed by W.H. Chow, the only identified Chinese-Canadian architect practicing at the time. It shows all the characteristics of the distinct 'Chinatown architectural style' for substantial buildings: vertical proportions; four storeys, with one or more of the upper floors featuring recessed balconies and others fully glazed; and a classical metal cornice.

Heritage value is also found in the history of ownership and use. Wong Soon King, who owned the building, was one of Chinatown's wealthiest and most successful businessmen. Like others of his class, he invested in real estate and played an important role in the community. As an investor, and as a co-founder of the outspoken Chinese Board of Trade - which campaigned tirelessly with City Hall for physical improvements, such as sidewalks, in Chinatown - he actively shaped the physical form of the community.

Another aspect of the building's heritage value is its longstanding association with Ming Wo Hardware. Ming Wo, located here since 1917, is one of the longest-operating businesses in Chinatown. Ming Wo is also significant as a Chinatown business that has long attracted non-Chinese shoppers, and which has since opened many branches (as Ming Wo Cookware) throughout the Lower Mainland. It is therefore representative of other well-established Vancouver area businesses that originated in Chinatown.

The use of space within the building conforms to the representative pattern in Chinatown, with retail on the ground floor, and offices, meeting rooms and small residential rooms designed to accommodate 'married batchelors' on the upper floors. In the first third of the twentieth century, organizational tenants included the Kong Chow Benevolent Association and the Hong Kong Club.

Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program.

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of the Ming Wo Building include:
- Location on the north side of Pender Street, Chinatown's 'main street'
- Vertical emphasis achieved by expression of vertical elements in features such as brick party walls, balustrades, fenestration and columnation.
- Prominent business name on frieze below cornice
- Classical sheet-metal cornice between corbelled metal stop-ends
- Building-wide row of double-hung sash on top storey, each separated by moulded mullions suggesting a colonnade
- Recessed balcony with slender classical pilasters and columns
- Building-wide glazing to rear of balcony
- 'Cheater' storey (illegal mezzanine) above main floor
- Right-hand side entry to staircase leading to upper floors, causing asymmetry of the storefront in an otherwise symmetrical elevation
- Mixed use of the building with retail on the ground floor and a combination of residential, office, and community uses above



British Columbia

Recognition Authority

City of Vancouver

Recognition Statute

Vancouver Charter, s.593

Recognition Type

Heritage Designation

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1917/01/01 to 1917/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Trade and Commerce

Function - Category and Type



Social, Benevolent or Fraternal Club
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




Related Places



Advanced SearchAdvanced Search
Nearby Places