Basel Hakka Property Changes

The Basel Hakka Lutheran Church (BHLC) was a Chinese church that held services at 823 Jackson Avenue from 1985 until 2008. An active and growing congregation throughout the 1990s, they eventually outgrew the space. The BHLC started raising money to acquire a new church in 2002 and by 2007 they were able to purchase a new church and education building at 2575 Nanaimo Street. The church at 823 Jackson Avenue was officially decommissioned by BHLC on Sunday the 26th of October, 2008. On the following Sunday, November 2, 2008 the BHLC held services in their new location.

During the 23 years that the BHLC owned the property at 823 Jackson Avenue numerous changes and improvements were made, both inside and outside the building. Shown above are a few photos from that period. The first two photos from 1985 show the property as it looked when it was first purchased (visible in the first photo is the bus in which Annie and Pierre Girard traveled across Canada). The photo from 1986 shows the building a year later with the installation of signs and two white crosses, the painting of the shingles and the removal of some landscaping. The photo from 1987 shows the laying of asphalt on the southern half of the property which was used as parking for the congregation. The photo from 1995 shows a new red metal roof being installed. Other changes were made as well, including the replacement of the windows (including the altar windows), the installation of permanent pews, finishing of the interior ceiling and creating an opening between the congregation area and the pastor’s office.

Pastor’s Side Entrance

During an exterior repair operation in 2015, it was evident that at one time there had been a narrow exterior door leading from the outside to the “west chancel” of the church at 823 Jackson Avenue. Above is shown a photo showing the old doorway, long since filled in, and a floor plan showing the location. The intent of such a door would have been to allow the pastor and/or choir to enter and exit the building without having to walk through the congregation area. The presence of this door also leads to the possibility that the building was raised since it was originally constructed. At the building’s present height, this doorway is about 4 meters off the ground and would have needed a long narrow stairway to access. If the building was originally constructed as a single story structure only a few steps would have been needed.

Black Pastors of the Fountain Chapel

For Black history month we honour the Black pastors who have offered services at one time at 823 Jackson Avenue.  While the building was originally built as a Norwegian Lutheran Church, starting in 1921 it became an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church.  The AME Church was founded in 1816 in Philadelphia by Rev. Richard Allen and was the first independent Black denomination.  As there was no Canadian branch of the AME, organizers of the Vancouver congregation were presided over by a Seattle branch and almost all of the pastors were sent from the United States.

Starting with the AME, the building became known as the Fountain Chapel and the first minister to serve was Reverend Ulysses S. Robinson, who arrived in Canada in October, 1921 (b. Texas, 1888; d. Chicago, 1947).  Rev. Robinson was the longest serving minister of the AME and was in Vancouver about nine years.  From the city directories and contemporaneous newspaper articles we can determine the names of at least some of the pastors who served after him. Shown in the table above are the names of the pastors, the approximate years that they were active and their associated church. This list is likely incomplete, especially in the period from 1944 to 1952 as there was a high turnover of pastors and they were not all recorded in city directories.

In her interview in Opening Doors, Nora Hendrix notes the high turnover of pastors after Rev. Robinson, saying “… then after six years we commenced getting different preachers every year pretty well” [Marlatt and Itter, 1979].  This was at least in part due to a dwindling congregation and the difficulty in supporting a full-time pastor. Rev. Theodore R. Jones, who was the pastor in 1943-1944 gave his opinion in a newspaper article at the time that his small congregation was due to the lack of racial discrimination which made it too easy for Black people in Canada. [Province, January 17, 1944.]  Adam Rudder also notes that “… it seems certain that by the end of the 1950s Black people had moved from Strathcona and scattered into the greater Vancouver area … families chose to move outside of the lower socioeconomic area of Strathcona and into more middle class neighborhoods … when black people were able to get better jobs, they began to buy houses in other areas of the city.” [Rudder, 2004]  Also, Rev. Mac Elrod, who attempted to restart the AME congregation in 1969 found that the original congregation had largely moved out of the neighborhood and were attending services in other churches. Thus, the decline of the AME congregation at 823 Jackson Avenue can at least in part be attributed to the upward mobility of the original congregation. Many had left Strathcona not because they had to but because they could (i.e. on their own terms).

Due to the decline and lack of a viable AME congregation, from the mid-1950’s through the 1960’s the building at 823 Jackson Avenue was little used and mostly vacant.  We do know that some of this time it was utilized by Rev. Malinda Thorne, who operated a shelter and soup kitchen in Vancouver known as “God’s Rescue Mission”. The shelter housed 10-15 transients and homeless people per night and Rev. Thorne served food and held nightly gospel services. Rev. Thorne was a minister with the AME Zion Church, a different denomination from AME and was forced to vacate the building in 1969.

Starting in 1969, Rev. Annie Walker (who changed her name to Annie Girard in 1976) took over the building and operated a non-denominational ministry she called the Cry In The Wilderness Church, while maintaining the name of the Fountain Chapel for the building.  Rev. Girard (nee Annie Lluella Barry) was born in Stonybrook, Alberta and along with Rev. J. Ivan Moore (who was born in Guelph, Ontario) were the only Canadian born pastors in this list, the rest being from the United States.

Rev. Girard describes in an interview from 1977 how she had a life changing vision in June 1969 in which she was visited by an angelic being who instructed her to “Go and claim the old cloured people’s church for the glory of God.” [Opening Doors unpublished interview, Marlatt and Itter, Royal BC Museum and Archives] At the time she did not know how to make this a reality, but she persevered.  She first volunteered to clean up at the church, then she started preaching her own worship services at the church and eventually convinced the presiding AME elder in Seattle to sell her the building.  While she owned the building until 1985, it’s not clear how long Rev. Girard offered church services. At least until the early to mid-1970s she preached and performed weddings in the building.

P. G.’s Pruning & Gardening Co.

Annie and Pierre Girard operated a landscaping and nursery business at 823 Jackson Avenue from approximately the mid 1970s through the early 1980s. The name “P. G.’s Pruning & Gardening Co. Ltd.” is listed on city directories from 1982 to 1985. Annie and Pierre are pictured above on the day they were married at the York County Courthouse in Fredericton, New Brunswick in December 1976.

As noted previously, Annie Girard owned and operated the building at 823 Jackson Avenue from 1969 through 1985 under a non-denominational ministry referred to first as the “Glory of God Church” and later as the “The Cry In The Wilderness Church“. During this time she kept the previous name of the “Fountain Chapel” as a reference to the building, although she had no association with the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church. The AME used the name Fountain Chapel when services first started in 1921, but as noted previously the AME congregation gradually became smaller over many years starting at least as early as the mid 1940s and the last full time pastor, Rev. Ivan Moore, left in 1956, at which point regular church services ceased.

When Annie Girard first occupied the building she was known under her name from a previous marriage, Annie Walker. Pierre Girard was originally from Quebec, and he met Annie through the Jesus People movement. Annie and Pierre had a large bus they traveled across Canada on and it was during a trip in late 1976 that they visited Pierre’s family in Quebec and got married in a civil ceremony in Fredericton.

Hogan’s Alley

Pictured above is Vancouver’s 1912 Fire Insurance Map superimposed on the current streets and viaducts. The block bordered by Main, Union, Gore and Prior was demolished around 1970 to make room for the ramps for the Georgia and Dunsmiur viaducts. As shown, this block included 37 residential properties (along Union and Prior) and 10 commercial properties (along Main). The destruction of this block can be considered in the context of the very end of Vancouver’s 20 year “slum clearance” and “urban renewal” programs, which have been described in a previous post, that also obliterated many other blocks in Strathcona, including the block across the street on the northeast corner of Union and Gore. Under the program, which affected thousands of local residents, owners were offered a fixed price for their homes, in the range of $6,000 to $8,000, and houses were expropriated if an owner refused to sell.

The term Hogan’s Alley is sometimes used to refer to this block, although the term has not always been used consistently. John Atkins notes that Hogan’s Alley ran “from Gore to Main” [Strathcona – Vancouver’s First Neighbourhood]. Other authors have suggested it ran through to Jackson. For example Purvey and Belshaw [Vancouver Noir] describe it as “extending about two blocks to Jackson.” Wayde Compton [After Canaan] notes that the viaducts destroyed Hogan’s Alley, also suggesting it ended at Gore, and states that the building at 823 Jackson Avenue, which is two blocks away, “flanked Hogan’s Alley”. Several interviewees in Marlatt and Itter [Opening Doors] discuss Hogan’s Alley as the general area without a precise definition and in particular Austin Philips says it “ended around Jackson Avenue – that’s when you were out of Hogan’s Alley.” Canada Post, in the notes accompanying an envelope depicting the building at 823 Jackson Avenue asserts that Hogan’s Alley was a “four block-long dirt lane” without citing a source; then they quote Dorothy Nealy from Opening Doors but she doesn’t define Hogan’s Alley in that interview, and even extending to Jackson would only be three blocks.

Thus it’s hard to know how the term was used at the time. It seems likely that Hogan’s Alley was mainly associated with the T-shaped lane in the block that was destroyed . The north-south portion of this lane, which extends from the block to the south through to the block to the north was referred to historically as “Park Lane“. As noted in previous posts, the term Hogan’s Alley likely originated as a reference to a fictional place from the The Yellow Kid comics by R. F. Outcault.

Malinda Thorne

Malinda Thorne was an extraordinary individual; a dedicated and compassionate person who devoted her life to helping others through preaching and social work. Pictured above from an article in the Vancouver Sun on September 26, 1970, she operated a shelter and soup kitchen in Vancouver known as “God’s Rescue Mission”. At the time of the article she was operating from a location on Powell Street in the downtown east side but had previously operated from 823 Jackson Avenue. God’s Rescue Mission sheltered 10-15 transients and homeless people per night and Rev. Thorne served food and held nightly gospel services.

Rev. Thorne was born in Chicago in 1923. Her father and two brothers were Methodist ministers so she grew up in a religious household. She became interested in ministry when she befriended destitute girls in her neighborhood and taught them to read and write using the Bible. Eventually she became an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Rev. Thorne says that the idea of God’s Rescue Mission came to her in a dream when she was conducting revival services in Spokane, Washington. She came to Vancouver in 1957 and initially worked at the First United Church under Rev. Russell Ross. According to the Sun article “in 1960 she opened [a mission] in an unused church at 823 Jackson” and “she has been at her present location at 381 Powell since 1967”

The building at 823 Jackson had been vacant since Rev. Ivan Moore left in 1956. The Vancouver Sun reports in July 1957 that “In mid-summer 1956, Rev. J. Ivan Moore left for United States. There was no successor to his pulpit, … When services ceased, the congregation scattered.” As noted previously, it had been evident since as early as the mid 1940s that the AME congregation had dispersed to the point that it was difficult to operate as a church. In December 1957 the Vancouver Sun reported that: “A church that has been closed for two years will open its doors again. … Preacher will be Rev. Melinda Thorne, Chicago.” [Rev. Thorne’s first name is sometimes spelled Melinda]

While the exact timing is not clear, it’s likely that during the period from 1958 to 1969 Rev. Thorne operated God’s Rescue Mission on and off out of 823 Jackson Avenue. The city directories, which are known to sometimes lag by a few years, lists the building as AME with no pastor from 1958 to 1963, vacant in 1964 and 1965, then AME Zion with Rev. Thorne as pastor from from 1966 to 1971. We know that some time in 1969 she had to move out of the building because Mac Elrod had approval from the head office of AME to take over services. [Rudder, 2004]

Urban Renewal in Vancouver

Strathcona, where 823 Jackson Avenue is located, is a neighborhood just east of Vancouver’s Chinatown. Strathcona came under pressure in the 1950’s and 1960’s under Vancouver’s slum clearance and urban renewal programs. Eventually several city blocks in Strathcona were obliterated before the program came to an end. Shown above is Figure 24 from David Lai’s definitive book “Chinatowns: Towns Within Cities in Canada” [Lai, 1988].

The concept of urban renewal and slum clearance in Strathcona began as early as 1950, when Dr. Leonard Marsh proposed in a report a major redevelopment scheme for Strathcona. Dr. Marsh’s report noted that a majority of the properties in Strathcona were dilapidated and he called for the acquisition and clearance of such properties and replacement with rental housing. In 1958 the Vancouver City Council approved a redevelopment plan that called for the demolition of nearly all old buildings in Strathcona. Because of this, regular public works maintenance in Strathcona ceased, property values in the neighborhood were frozen and no redevelopment permits were issued to property owners.

Vancouver’s urban renewal program forced owners to sell their properties at a negotiated price, which ranged from $6,000 to $8,000 and houses were expropriated if an owner refused to sell. Lai notes that “Most homeowners complained that the price offered was insufficient to purchase houses elsewhere in the city. However, within a year, over six city blocks in Strathcona had been appropriated and their structures, including some historic Chinese ‘tong houses’ such as the Hing Mee Society house, were demolished to provide sites for the extension of the Maclean Park Housing Project, the replacement of Maclean Park, and construction of the 376-unit Raymur Place Housing Project. About 300 Chinese residents were forced to move, some of whom were very bitter about the clearance, arguing that the social impact on the community had not been considered.” [Lai, p. 128]

Nevertheless, the city persisted and in December 1962, Vancouver City Council announced Redevelopment Project No. 2, which would involve the acquisition and clearance of nearly thirty acres of land and the displacement of about 2,300 people. The project included five city blocks in Strathcona and would displace 770 persons, mostly Chinese, in order to provide sites for public and private housing, and for the expansion of Strathcona School. Various Chinese associations immediately protested against the project, which was criticized as being “unwise, too ambitious and without regard for the human element.” They argued that apartments were unsuitable for the Chinese family system, in which members of several different generations lived together. The expropriation and clearance program under Project No. 2 would force Chinese families to move out of Chinatown and would destroy four Chinese schools and scores of Chinese fraternal associations. [Lai, p. 129]

Luckily the structure at 823 Jackson Avenue avoided this fate. This was particularly fortunate because by this time the AME congregation has dispersed and the building was little used and in poor condition. The building was listed as being vacant in 1964 and 1965 and starting in 1966 it was listed as being occupied by a different denomination, the AME Zion church, which did not own the building. Mac Elrod, the AME minister who took back the building in 1969, reported that when he arrived the building was being used by AME Zion “not holding service but using it as a hostel for the homeless” [Rudder, 2004]

Vancouver’s Urban Renewal Project Numbers 1 and 2 had displaced about 1,000 people, of whom more than half were Chinese. Mr. Lai notes that “In the implementation of these two projects, attention was paid only to physical improvement of Strathcona District; no consideration was given to the social problems of residents. A survey conducted by United Community Services revealed that the reaction of the people, particularly the Italians, whose homes were to be destroyed, bordered on panic. Some people who had been moved into Maclean Park Housing Project led solitary, isolated lives and had little contact with the area’s recreational agencies. The survey also revealed that most people in the district, particularly Chinese residents, would have liked to own their own homes, continue to raise home-grown vegetables and flowers, and maintain a sense of security by living close to Chinatown.” [Lai, p. 130]

Undeterred, in the summer of 1965, Vancouver’s Planning Department started to work on the details of the third and final stage of clearance of remaining housing in Strathcona and relocation of its 3,000 residents. This clearance program was part of Urban Renewal Scheme No. 3, which covered five subareas: Strathcona, False Creek Flats, Clark Drive, Kingsway, Main, and Mount Pleasant. [Lai, p. 130]

Opposition efforts came to a head in December 1968, when about 600 people came to a meeting at which the Strathcona Property Owners and Tenants Association (SPOTA) was formed. Lai notes that “They sent briefs and petitions to City Council, demanding the right to continue to live in the Strathcona area and suggesting that Council should lend residents money to improve their homes instead of buying them and tearing them down. Residents were not against physical improvements in Strathcona but they disapproved of how the city had handled the whole process. Urban renewal had created more social problems than it had solved; it had resulted in unaccountable psychological and socioeconomic costs, such as the anxiety and uncertainty of the residents, disruption of a familiar environment, financial loss resulting from inadequate compensation, and destruction of many structures of high heritage value. In his study of displaced Chinese families, Richard Nann found that ‘reactions of anger, bitterness, frustration, resignation and relief were constantly encountered by the researchers’; in some instances, relocation meant major disruption and frustration of life achievements and aspirations. Some Chinese people perceived the redevelopment programs as an attempt by the government to remove Chinese families from valuable real estate.” [Lai, p. 131]

The organization of SPOTA and their vocal opposition was the beginning of the end of the urban renewal programs. In early 1969, Paul Hellyer, the Minister of Housing, froze federal funding for all urban renewal projects other than those currently implemented. This signaled a change in the perspective of the federal government . Meanwhile, SPOTA had become one of the strongest community action groups in Vancouver. It continued to pressure Council to abandon its urban renewal programs. In August 1969, the Minster of Housing announced that the renewal scheme planned for Strathcona area would not proceed as originally planned.

Jesus People

The Jesus movement was a Christian movement beginning in California in the late 1960s, spreading up the West Coast and throughout North America in the 1970s before subsiding by the 1980s. Members of the movement were referred to as Jesus people, or sometimes as Jesus freaks. The Jesus movement in some ways was a response to the hippie counterculture movement of the late 1960s. In the summer of 1967, the “Summer of Love”, tens of thousands of young people flocked to San Francisco to celebrate personal expression, to experiment with drugs and to participate in open sexuality.

As many became disillusioned with the hippie lifestyle, new evangelists appeared in the San Francisco Bay Area, urging people to follow Jesus Christ and to forsake drugs and promiscuous sex. By early 1969 a synthesis of hippie Christians and evangelical religion (especially Pentecostal religion) was spreading up the West Coast and across North America. One aspect of the Jesus movement that attracted youth was the use of folk, pop and rock music, in contrast to conservative churches that had traditionally shunned such entertainment.

In Seattle a group that became known as the Jesus People’s Army (JPA) was started by Linda Meissner and a Vancouver chapter of JPA was headed by Russ Griggs. The Vancouver JPA organization was significant and included an eighty-acre ranch, a bakery-delicatessen, a school for high-school dropouts and a coffee house (Shepherd’s Call). For a period of time around 1969 to 1971 some of the Vancouver JPA members stayed at 823 Jackson Avenue.

Annie Girard (at that time Annie Walker, pictured above in 1972), took over the building at 823 Jackson Avenue in 1969 from the AME. By then, the AME had long since ceased as a functioning congregation, the members having dispersed from the Strathcona neighborhood. Largely this was the result of upward mobility as the AME members moved to better neighborhoods as they could afford to.

The name “Fountain Chapel” was given to the building by the AME church when the congregation first started in 1921, but Annie Girard (who was not associated with AME, had her own non-denominational worship service and was ordained by the Assemblies of God) decided to keep the name Fountain Chapel to refer to the building. Rev. Girard referred to her ministry as the “Cry In The Wilderness“, perhaps because she saw her mission in part as providing refuge for young people searching for answers in a complex and difficult world. In her interview with Marlatt and Itter for the Opening Doors project, Rev. Girard recounts how she helped many kids get off drugs and gave them a place to stay: “I went around to Jericho Beach and I went around these places and I gathered up kids, kids that were on drugs and said ‘Hey, come on kids. I can find more for you than drugs. Come on, I’ll show you a better way.'”

It was during this time that some of the JPA members needed a place to stay and Rev. Girard invited them to stay in the Fountain Chapel for about a year in a communal living arrangement. Eventually Rev. Girard broke with the JPA but some of the individuals remained. In his book “The Far-Out Saints of the Jesus Communes”, journalist Hiley H. Ward chronicles his experiences traveling throughout North America visiting people associated with the Jesus movement. Mr. Ward notes that while the Jesus Movement was predominantly white, for the most part it was racially integrated and non-discriminatory. On this point Ward highlights the Fountain Chapel as an example of integration and comments that: “Ann Walker, a black, heads a white commune (Fountain Chapel) in Vancouver, after splitting off from the Jesus People Army group.” [Ward, p. 88]

AME Trustees

We’ve written here that Nora Hendrix was a co-founder of the AME congregation at 823 Jackson Avenue from around 1921 until 1969. But who were the other co-founders? One possible answer comes from exploring the historical title to the building. While a title to the building was recorded in the name of the AME church, a second recording at the same time listed three trustees (detail pictured above). The three names were: Sidney Andrew Amos, Nora Hendrix and Maude Wright.

When the building was sold to Annie Walker (later Annie Girard) in 1969, she had the agreement of the presiding Elder from Seattle, but she needed to collect the signatures of the trustees. In an interview from 1977, Ms. Girard recounts how it was difficult to get the final signature:

“It was owned by the African Methodist Episcopal Church, but I was trying to buy it, and they had offered it to me, and all I had to do was get one more name signed. Mrs. Hendrix was already signed and there was two other names that were signed. I just had to get one more name, and this man had gone, they hadn’t seen him for thirty years. And they had to have his name, or a death certificate or something. Nobody could find a death certificate, you couldn’t find nothing for the man, he was a minister. The minister that was here at that time, Mr. [Amos], he was here at that time. He was the one of the founders and they couldn’t find him nowhere, but yet his name was on the title. And a miracle happened there. The man just came out of the clear blue sky, after five years. He said, “I’ve heard that I’ve been looked for.” And he just came out of the clear, blue sky. And he said, “Sure , I’ll sign the paper.” And he signed it, and he said, “I couldn’t imagine, that I would hold up something.” And he’s still a minister, in Chicago.”

(Opening Doors, unpublished interview, Marlatt and Itter, 1977). The title recording the change in ownership to Annie Girard was finally recorded in August 1974.

496 Prior Street

The building at 496 Prior Street lies directly across Prior Street from 823 Jackson Avenue. The building currently on that site was built in 1930 and has had many uses over the years.

In the composite image shown above, on the left is a portion of the Vancouver fire insurance map from around 1952 shown with a drawing of the building at 496 Prior Street and the notation “PRINTERS INK MFG.”  On the top right is a photo from an article in the Vancouver Sun taken from the steps of 823 Jackson Avenue. This photo, from July 1952, shows what appears to be a sign for the “Ault & Wiborg Company of Canada“, a manufacturer of printing inks and dry color dyes and pigments.

The Ault & Wiborg Company was established in 1878 in Cincinnati, Ohio by Levi Addison Ault, who was born in Mille Roches, Ontario to French-Canadian parents and Frank Bestow Wiborg, who was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of a  Norwegian immigrant. The business was very successful and by 1928, when the business was sold to the International Printing Ink Corp. (which later became Interchemical Corp.), it was the international leader in the inks field.

The building at 496 Prior Street also has a ghost sign for “Money’s Mushrooms” on the west side of the building that is still visible today.  W. T. Money established W. T. Money & Co. in 1928 which later because Money’s Mushrooms and was a local supplier of mushrooms headquartered at 631 Seymour Street, later moving to Surrey, BC.

496 Prior Street was bought by the City of Vancouver in 1983 and in the 1980s it was operated under a City program as an incubator for start-up businesses. A number of different  businesses leased space in the building from the city during that time.  In fact, one of the tenants was local artist Torrie Groening, who currently has her studio at 823 Jackson Avenue.  In 1989 Groening had just returned to Vancouver from several years in Toronto and as a master printer started the print studio “Prior Editions Limited“, so named because it was located on Prior Street.

Eventually one of the tenants, White Monkey Design, took over the entire building and is the current occupant. The bottom photo on the right above is a recent photo of the building.  White Monkey Design, run by Booth Milton, manufactures props for the film and TV industry and has created a large number of diverse and fascinating props for locally produced movies and TV shows.