Photo Credit: roaming-the-planet
104-108 E Pender St, Vancouver BC
Vancouver’s Chinese Benevolent Association (CBA) was formed in 1895 and was formally recognized by the Province of BC as a non-profit organization in 1906. Despite the discriminatory climate of the early 1900s, the organization was able to acquire the land to design and subsequently build the four-storey building that stands today. Construction began in 1908 under the supervision of the CBA’s then vice-president Yip Sang, and the building was completed in 1909.
The architectural style of the building is a good example of influences from southern China, with recessed balconies, ornate ironwork and decorative tile. The stone fire walls and imposing four floors topped with a pediment wall add to the prominence of the structure.
The CBA was an organization created to support railway workers that evolved into a vocal representative of the Chinese community in BC. Influential leaders in the community including Chen Daozhi, Yip Sang, Huang Yushan, Lin Deshao, Liang Quirui and Li Shifan proposed the organization in 1889 and later founded it in 1895. It was one of many similar associations that represented the interests of Chinese communities in North American cities. The Vancouver CBA was active on a number of fronts. It protested against repressive legislation such as wage discrimination, advocated for the right of Chinese-Canadians to vote until the law was finally changed in 1947, and appealed discriminatory immigration policies on an ongoing basis. Within the community, it has advocated for social and physical well-being by organizing food distribution, arranging burials, sponsoring Chinese language schools, and at one time, housing a medical clinic that provided free services for those that needed them.
The CBA has occupied the building continuously, but has also shared space with other organizations. For instance, the Hoysun Ningyang Benevolent Association occupied the second floor until the 1970s, and after the organization vacated it, a Chinese opera troupe subsequently rented the space.
The CBA continues to be active in Chinatown as an umbrella organization as well as through the support of a seniors’ residence, fundraising campaigns, and the organization of events such as the Chinese New Year parade.
Canada's Historic Places, Chinatown Map Guide (VHF), https://vancouver.ca/files/cov/historic-study-of-the-society-buildings-in-chinatown.pdf