R. F. Outcault

Richard Felton Outcault (1863 – 1928) was an illustrator and cartoonist.  He started as a scientific illustrator who worked for Thomas Edison but he is best known for his series “The Yellow Kid” which was centered around an Irish boy named Mickey Dugan living in the immigrant neighborhoods of New York’s Lower East Side. The Yellow Kid was so-named because he always appeared in a yellow shirt, he was often bare footed and sometimes pulling around a dead cat on a string.

It’s hard to overstate the significance of The Yellow Kid series. It was hugely popular at the time and became a cultural icon. The Yellow Kid has been recognized as the first American comic strip and has been honoured by the United States Postal Service.  Outcault originally created the series for Joseph Pulitzer‘s New York World and in the newspaper wars of the turn of the century New York he was subsequently hired away by William Randolph Hearst‘s New York Journal.

Outcault created a fictional place in Mickey Dugan’s world name “Hogan’s Alley” where he and his pals played.  Hogan’s Alley was a chaotic, messy, disorganized and playful lane where all sorts of mischief took place.  Above are illustrated “At The Circus In Hogan’s Alley” dated May 5, 1895 (New York World) and a detail from “Moving Day In Hogan’s Alley” from May 3, 1896 (New York World).

Due to the popularity of The Yellow Kid, the term “Hogan’s Alley” became synonymous with poor especially immigrant neighborhoods with much and sometimes nefarious activity.  There were many neighborhoods referred to informally as “Hogan’s Alley” throughout North America and it was as such that the T-shaped lane in Vancouver bordered by Union Street, Prior Street, Gore Avenue and Main Street, which is two blocks west of 823 Jackson Avenue, came to be known. The north-south portion of this lane was also named Park Lane.  Some have referred to Hogan’s Alley as extending east along the lane between Union and Prior and some have also referred generally to the area as Hogan’s Alley.

In 1970 the block containing Hogan’s Alley was demolished in order for the ramps to the Georgia and Dunsmuir  viaducts to be built and the rest of the block is now a park.

Rev. J. Ivan Moore

James Ivan Moore was the first Canadian-born pastor of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church in Vancouver and may have been the last full time minister assigned to the building at 823 Jackson Avenue.  J. Ivan Moore was a fascinating man who’s life spanned the 20th Century.  He was born in Guelph, Ontario around 1900, was adopted, and was raised in nearby Brantford. He served in the Canadian military near the end of World War I, being drafted on July 1, 1918 into the 2nd Canadian Garrison Regiment in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

After the war Rev. Moore attended the Negro University at Wilberforce, Ohio and he was ordained in New York in 1935. In 1939 and 1940, he was minister at Owen Sound’s British Methodist Episcopal Church. Rev. Moore’s grandson notes that he: “was a Colored man but pastored all or mostly white congregations throughout his ministry in Canada, started the first all Negro Canadian Hockey League and assisted A. Phillip Randolph in organizing the Canadian Car Porters in the 1930’s.”

Rev. Moore moved to Vancouver around 1950 to serve as the pastor for the AME Fountain Chapel at 823 Jackson Avenue. He is listed in the Vancouver city directories only in a single year, 1952, and no other pastors are listed between 1944 and 1963.  The July 19, 1952 issue of the Sun newspaper (photo shown above) featured Rev. Moore in an article entitled “Negroes Live Next Door” by Bruce Ramsey.   The Sun photo shows Rev. Moore standing to the left and shows the Crumb family ascending the steps of 823 Jackson Avenue including Mrs. Robert Crumb, twin sons Robert and Ronald, 12 (who were well-known Vancouver entertainers at the time) and daughter Sandra, 5.

The Sun article notes that “the city’s Negro population, numbering some 700 persons … [were] scattered throughout Vancouver.” The article also notes that “there is no one locality in Vancouver which can be described as being Negro”.  Nevertheless, Rev. Moore worked tirelessly to help Vancouver’s black population, especially black  youth. During his time in Vancouver Rev. Moore set up a youth support program that met every Wednesday in the church.

Alas, Rev. Moore’s time in Vancouver did not last long. He was only the pastor at the Fountain Chapel for two years and then was reassigned to an AME Church in Spokane, Washington.  Rev. Moore’s daughter and son both graduated from high school in Vancouver during that time but they never returned after graduation. Rev. Moore ended up moving to Northern California where he retired and passed away in 1995 in Berkeley,  California. His grandson currently lives in the Los Angeles area.

The Gallimaufry Players

J. McRee (“Mac”) Elrod was an amazing man who lived a full life.  He had a generous heart and was open minded to consider just about anything.  When Mac Elrod moved to Vancouver in 1967, it was not just to take a job at the University of British Columbia (UBC), he was also heavily involved in the community and sought ways to help others.  He was involved in the movement to assist draft dodgers from the United States and as an ordained minister he volunteered to try to restart the inactive congregation of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church at 823 Jackson Avenue. When he took over control of the building in the fall of 1969, he made a fateful decision. In order to help out a fledgling theatre group who had little funding and no place to rehearse, Mac Elrod agreed to let the Gallimaufry Players use the building during the week when it was not being used for worship services.

The Gallimaufry Players were an experimental theatre group that included lead actors Wayne Robson and Angela Slater. The Ubyssey (which is the student-run newspaper of UBC) published an article in its September 26, 1969 issue (excerpt pictured) about the Gallimaufry Players including an interview with Angela Slater.  Their so-called manifesto states that: “The Gallimaufry is a small group of professional actors, directors, designers, and writers dedicated to the production of an Avant-Garde repertory in Vancouver on a regular professional basis. The Gallimaufry exists primarily to say new things in new ways. Whether described as ‘Avant-Garde’, ‘Experimental’ or ‘Radical’; the new theatre comes into existence when the rigidity of the artistic establishment challenges the artist to extend the boundaries.”

And extend the boundaries they did. In 1969 the Gallimaufry put on a production of Michael McClure’s The Beard, a play about a fictional conversation between two legendary figures, Jean Harlow and Billy the Kid, and containing explicit language and a controversial final scene with a simulated sex act. While perhaps not extraordinary by today’s standards, in 1969 it offended some and actors Robson and Slater were arrested for obscenity during one performance, charges which were eventually dropped.

The Ubyssey article notes that: “The Gallimaufry is starting on its first regular winter season this year.  The company is still very short of funds and is still without an acceptable location for performance. For the time being, however, it has moved into downtown into the African Methodist Episcopal Church (!) on the corner of Jackson and Prior.  The church was donated by its Priest (who, I was told, is somewhat of a freak) and in it the company members live, act, rehearse, write, plan and just generally be.”

Amusingly, the Ubyssey published an apology two weeks later: “Oops. The Ubyssey apologizes profusely for certain comments in its September 26 issue of Page Friday. In an article entitled ‘The Gallimaufry’, it was stated that the members of the Gallimaufry Theatre lived ‘communally together’ in the African Methodist Episcopal Church on Jackson and Prior Street. Also, it was stated that the priest of this church was ‘somewhat of a freak’. The Gallimaufry Theatre Company does not live together in the church. The members have their own individual places of domicile, and only work together in the church. The priest of the church is not a ‘freak’ . He is a responsible citizen, and is actually quite straight.”

In the end it was the presence of the Gallimaufry Players in the building at 823 Jackson Avenue that contributed to the decision to sell the building to Annie Girard. As she recounts in her interview from 1977 (unpublished interview, Marlatt and Itter), Rev. Girard was sharing the building with Mac Elrod at the time and she invited the presiding AME Elder from Seattle, who had the ultimate authority over the building, up to see what was going on. It was this decision in 1969 that ended the AME church in Vancouver and started an era during which Rev. Girard used 823 Jackson Avenue for her own non-denominational services.  While retaining the name Fountain Chapel, she referred to her ministry as the Cry in the Wilderness Church.

Canada Post Envelope

Every year Canada Post issues two stamps in celebration of Black History Month (February).  On January 30, 2014 Canada Post issued a first day envelope featuring the building at 823 Jackson Avenue on the cover (pictured).  The stamp and the envelope honour Hogan’s Alley, which was a T-shaped alley in the block bounded by Main Street, Gore Avenue, Prior Street and Union Street (two blocks west of 823 Jackson Avenue), a block which was torn down for the construction of viaducts in early 1970s.  The Hogan’s Alley stamp depicts Nora Hendrix and Fielding William Spotts Jr.

While representing a nice illustration of the building as it looked around 2008, there are a few details that are not historically accurate for how the building looked at the time of Hogan’s Alley.  The white cross was added in 1985, the red roof was installed in 1995, the covered entry way was added in the late 1990s and the illustration does not show the dormers.  The lane behind the building at 823 Jackson Avenue lies on the extension of Hogan’s Alley which was two blocks to the west.  We’ll have more to say about Hogan’s Alley in future posts.

John Qualen

The current building at 823 Jackson Avenue was the second church to be built in that location. In 1893 a small one-storey church was built for the First Scandinavian Lutheran Church. City directories list the first pastor as Rev. C. J. Olsen from 1894 to 1897 followed by Rev. Peder Olaus Kvalen (later changed to Qualen) from 1898 to 1901 and again from 1906 to 1908. Peder Olaus Kvalen was born in Wisconsin on March 22, 1872. His wife, Anna Heggelund, was born in Norway. Prior to coming to Vancouver, Rev. Kvalen and his family had been living in Iowa where their first son Olai was born. Their first house in Vancouver was 404 Keefer, but they soon moved to 516 Prior Street.

On December 8, 1899, Rev. Kvalen’s wife Anna gave birth to their second son, Johan Mandt Kvalen (pictured), who became an actor under the name John Qualen.  John Qualen went into acting against his father’s wishes and eventually reaching Broadway, he gained his big break as the Swedish janitor in Elmer Rice’s Street Scene in 1931. His movie career began when he recreated the role in the film version. This was followed by his appearance in John Ford’s Arrowsmith (1931) which began a more than thirty year membership in John Ford’s “stock company”, with important supporting roles in The Searchers (1956), Two Rode Together (1961), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) and Cheyenne Autumn (1964).

Appearing in well over one hundred films, and acting extensively on television into the 1970s, Qualen performed many of his roles with various accents. Qualen assumed a Midwestern dialect as Muley, who recounts the destruction of his farm by the bank in Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath (1940), as the confused killer Earl Williams in Howard Hawks’ classic comedy His Girl Friday (1940) and as Berger, the jewelry-selling Norwegian resistance member in Michael Curtiz’ Casablanca (1942).

Rev. Qualen and his family stayed in Vancouver until about late 1901 when Rev. Qualen was transferred to Chicago. There he looked after two congregations: Trinity Norwegian Lutheran Church in South Chicago and Nazareth Norwegian Lutheran Church in West Pullman, Chicago.  Rev. Qualen remained Pastor of both churches until 1906 when he was transferred back to Vancouver. After leaving Canada around 1909 Rev. Qualen and his wife Anna lived in Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota before settling in Santa Monica, California.  Rev. Peder Olaus Qualen died in Los Angeles on March 12, 1964 and John Qualen died in Torrrance, California on September 12, 1987.

Rev. Theodore Jones

The annual Vancouver city directories for 823 Jackson Avenue sometimes list the Reverend, Minister or Pastor. This was especially true in the early years of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, in the 1920s and 1930s, when ministers would come from the United States and would stay for several years at a time.  At some point, however, the turnover of ministers increased and the directories would rarely list a presiding minister. Nora Hendrix notes in an interview from 1977 that: “… then after six years we commenced getting different preachers every year pretty well.” (Opening Doors, Marlatt and Itter, 1979).

From 1942 to 1951 the city directories list a minister in only a single year, 1944: Rev. Theodore R. Jones.  Rev. Jones was born in 1901 in Arkansas, the grandson of a Methodist minister. He graduated from Flake University in Nashville Tennessee, and from Livingstone College, Hood Theological Seminary in Salisbury, North Carolina. Livingstone College and Hood Theological Seminary are affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, technically a different denomination than the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  Rev. Jones taught for four years in Africa, was ordained in 1932 and then spent three years in South America and the Virgin Islands. Rev. Jones came to Vancouver around September, 1943 and it’s not clear how long he remained the pastor of the Fountain Chapel.

In an article for the Province dated January 17, 1944, entitled “Life Too Easy Here, Says Negro Pastor” (pictured), Rev. Jones gives his opinion that the “lack of racial discrimination makes it too easy” for black people in Canada. He also comments that: “The colored population of Vancouver is in a state of spiritual adultery,” and that “of the estimated 500 or 700 [black people] in Vancouver, less than 50 attend the service of the only church for colored people here.”

Of course there was some racial discrimination in Vancouver and much of it was subtle.  Adam Rudder discusses this in detail in his Master’s Thesis: “A Black Community in Vancouver?: A History of Invisibility” (University of Victoria, 2004). However such discrimination did not prevent a significant degree of mobility and Rev. Jones  characterization of “spiritual adultery” reinforces the notion that many black people no longer lived in the neighborhood and were comfortable attending services in other churches.  Rudder 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 socio-economic 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.”

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. Rudder concludes that “Whether it was convenience, dissatisfaction with the AME church or spiritual adultery that influenced black people to  attend church in their new neighborhoods remains a question for debate. Unfortunately for the church, the migration of wealthier black people out of the Strathcona area also meant the loss of some of their key members.”

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).  Purvey and Belshaw note that “Strathcona is Vancouver’s doorstep, the community that welcomes newcomers, … of all Vancouver’s communities, it was the most diverse, … [with] newcomers on the way up and out, and Vancouverites on the way down.” (Vancouver Noir 1930-1960, 2011)

Combining North and South

The building at 823 Jackson Avenue sits on the north half of a property that was originally two 25 foot lots.  The building barely fits on just the north half of the property because the south half of the property was not owned by the church at the time the building was constructed.  In fact, as far back as 1894 the two halves were owned separately and it wasn’t until 1977 that they were re-combined.

Going back to the original Crown grant, the entire area was titled to the British Columbia and Vancouver Island Spar Lumber Sawmill Company Limited with a title recorded on November 30, 1865. Between 1865 and 1894 there were various transfers and the lots in the area were owned by George Campbell, Edward Davis Heatley, Dennis Reginald Harris and The Vancouver Improvement Company Limited. Then on June 17, 1891 both lots were sold to Swan G. Hoffard.

Mr. Hoffard was a grocer at Rude & Co, which was on the north side of Keefer Street near Gore Avenue.  According to the 1901 census, Swan G. Hoffard was born in Norway on March 9, 1852 and came to Canada in 1887. In 1880 Mr. Hoffard was living in Hawley, Clay County, Minnesota and working as a dry goods store clerk. His wife, Cecelia Elizabeth Herreid was born in Hardanger, Norway on January 19, 1862, the daughter of Ole and Cecilia Herreid and she came to Canada in 1887 and to Vancouver in the 1888.

In 1894 the north and south halves of the double lot were split and the north half was sold to Carl J. Olson, who was the pastor of the First Scandinavian Lutheran Church.  Between 1894 and 1910 (when the current building was constructed), there was an earlier smaller church built on the site and the city directories variously list the address as hosting the “Swedish Church”, “First Scandinavian Lutheran Church”, “Lutheran Church”, “Scandinavian Church”, “Scandinavian Lutheran Church”, “German Lutheran Church” and finally in 1910 the “Norwegian Lutheran Church”, which is how it remained listed until 1922.

The south half of the property was owned by Cecelia Hoffard until 1937, and then went through a number of different owners until 1959 when it was sold to the City of Vancouver.

Annie Girard, who owned the north half of the property since 1974, had been trying to purchase the south half from the City of Vancouver since as early as 1976.  The City of Vancouver initially offered to sell it for $40,000 but eventually a price of $35,000 was agreed upon and approved in a meeting of the City Council on February 22, 1977 (excerpt of minutes pictured) on the condition that Rev. Girard combine the two halves back into a single lot which she did.

The Other Mellish Church

In 1910 Frederick Mellish designed two churches in Vancouver, the one at 823 Jackson Avenue being the second one (in November 1910). Earlier that year Mellish designed the building at 1656 Semlin Drive (pictured, originally the Saint Savior’s Church, now the Vancouver Mandarin Church), which is not far away on 1st Avenue just east of Commercial Drive.

The similarities between the two churches are obvious. They share the same roof pitch, the half timbering design of the upper gable, the shape and detailing of the dormers as well as the knee braces (including crosses on the end of some of them).  The knee braces (aka “eave brackets”) are an interesting detail.  Knee braces on overhanging eaves were made popular with the Art and Crafts style of architecture around 1910. While ostensibly functional to add support to a roof structure, many knee braces are considered embellishments and are merely decorative.  Mellish used this aspect of the Arts and Crafts style by adding knee braces to the gables (four on the main gables and two on the smaller gables), but he chose not to put a knee brace at the peak of the gable (as is common in many Craftsman style homes with low pitch roofs).  This serves to reinforce the clean look of the roof peak.  The building at 823 Jackson Avenue has been referred to as an Arts and Crafts institutional building and other aspects of Arts and Crafts that can be seen in the building are the use of eaves with exposed rafters, the use of dormers (in this case as attic vents) and the half-timbering design around the louvered attic vent on the main gable.

Before he moved to Vancouver Mellish was a renowned architect in Galt, Ontario (now part of Cambridge, Ontario in the Waterloo Region) and he designed and supervised the construction of an impressive number of buildings in the Galt region between 1890 and 1908.  Mellish is mentioned in the Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada, the Region of Waterloo Generations List, the City of Cambridge Hall of Fame and in Luxton’s “Building the West, Early Architects of British Columbia”.  The list of Mellish’s buildings includes the Galt Hospital (1891), the Gore Mutual Insurance Company Head Office at Main and Ainslie (1895); the two-storey section of the Galt Market Building (1896); the Galt Fire Hall (1898); and the Galt Carnegie Library (1905).  In addition he was responsible for a number of other commercial blocks in Preston and other towns in the area as well as a number of private residences.

Mellish was born in Galt on April 11, 1860, the first of the six children of Robert F. and Louisa Mellish.  Mellish received his early education in private schools and at the Galt Collegiate Institute.  He first trained as a carpenter and a builder with a view to eventually becoming an architect.  He registered with the Ontario Association of Architects on March 21, 1891 at the age of 30, but he was active in the profession prior to that date.

In 1908 Mr. Mellish moved to Vancouver where he worked as an architect and contractor from 1909 to about 1920, mainly as a designer of houses during the real estate boom of 1912-1913.  Upon retirement, he continued to reside in Vancouver and, in 1919, built a Craftsman style house for himself and his family (Mellish House at 2325 East 1st Avenue).  Frederick Mellish died in Vancouver on April 15, 1928 at the age of 68.

Hakka Lutherans

The Hakka are a distinct ethnic sub-group of Chinese people and Hakka is also a distinct language.  The Hakkas originated from Northern China and in a series of migrations, they moved and settled in their present areas in Southern China, and from there, substantial numbers migrated to various countries throughout the world. With nomadic origins, the Hakkas are not named after a geographical region, but modern day Hakkas are generally identified with people who either speak the Hakka language or share Hakka ancestry.  While the Vancouver Hakka community was estimated as less than 100 in 1970 (Wilmott, BC Studies, 1970), there was significant immigration growth in the 1980s and 1990s.

In 1982 a group of Hakka Lutherans had a vision of starting a Hakka church in Vancouver and thus created the Basel Hakka Lutheran Church (BHLC). According to the BHLC web site, the first meeting was held at the basement of Brother Stephen Chong‘s residence and the BHLC subsequently used the First Lutheran Church for Sunday services. After three years, in 1985, the BHLC was able to acquire their own building and moved into 823 Jackson Avenue (pictured shortly after purchase in 1985).  The congregation grew very quickly during the immigration rush from 1985-1995.  Initial services were conducted only in the Hakka language, but seeing the increasing number of young people, who primarily speak only English, the church started the English service in 1992.

The BHLC made a number of changes to the property at 823 Jackson Avenue during the time they owned it. Shortly after purchasing the building, the BHLC installed two white crosses, one on the south side of the building and one on the east side, and replaced the altar windows.  In 1987 the south half of the property was asphalted for use as a parking lot. Sometime between 1988 and 1994 the upstairs windows were replaced and in 1995 the roof was replaced with a red metal roof (from the  previous black shingles).

In 2000, due to the growth of its activities, BHLC decided to expand its church building and formed a building expansion committee. In 2007 sufficient money was raised to purchase the building at 2575 Nanaimo Street in Vancouver. On October 26, 2008, 823 Jackson Avenue was officially decommissioned by the BHLC in a ceremony that included members of the Hogan’s Alley Memorial Project, and the property was sold as a private residence.

Annie Girard

Annie Girard became responsible for the building at 823 Jackson Avenue in 1969 based on the decision of the Presiding Elder of the Afican Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Seattle. With that decision, the presence of the AME in Vancouver effectively ended, although the title transfer was not finalized until 1974.

Girard (pictured above in front of 823 Jackson Avenue) was born Annie Lluella Barry in 1922 in Stonybrook Alberta. She grew up on a farm with her three siblings and 10 half-siblings. In 1936 she moved to Kelowna and lived there for two years before moving to Vancouver in 1938 at the age of 16. Girard’s first husband was Herman Cecil Walker and they had three children; she was known as Annie Walker when she first took over the building.

Girard describes in an interview from 1977 (Opening Doors unpublished interview, Marlatt and Itter) 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.” It wasn’t easy but she worked hard to make this a reality. She worked at cleaning up the church, started preaching in her own non-denominational worship services at the church and eventually was able to purchase the property.

Girard established a ministry in the name of the “Cry in the Wilderness Church”, which is how the listing of 823 Jackson Avenue appears on city directories from 1975 to 1985, although she still referred to the building as the Fountain Chapel during this time. Ms. Girard hosted people associated with the Jesus Movement at the Fountain Chapel for a period of time in the early 1970s and eventually broke with them, while continuing her own sanctuary for youth. She recounts in her 1977 interview how she would drive her red station wagon to Jericho Beach and talk to young people and offer them a place to stay at the church.

Girard’s third husband was Pierre Girard, and they established a landscaping business in the church, “P.G.’s Pruning and Gardening Co. Ltd.,” and for many years Annie and Pierre operated the business together.  Girard was injured in an accident and could no longer work in the landscaping business. Pierre subsequently returned to Montreal and without a source of income Ms. Girard was forced to give up the church in 1985. Annie Girard died in 2007 and is buried in Abbostford, BC.