Vancouver Centennial Plaque #10 – The Oldest Building in Chinatown


51 E Pender


Wing Sang Building, now home to the Chinese Canadian Museum


Missing, but building on Heritage Site Finder



In 1889, Yip Sang, merchant and labour contractor, built the western portion of the Wing Sang building. The rest of the structure, with its bay windows and third floor, was added in 1902. Among former tenants was Vancouver's oldest Chinese bakery, the Wo Fat.”

Credit: Vancouver Centennial Commission, Historic Plaque Program – list and documentation plaques 1-49 (June 18, 1986). Courtesy of Vancouver Archives

Yip Sang was born into a poor family in China in 1845 and moved to San Fransisco in 1864. He tried to make his fortune in the Yukon gold rush, but settled in Vancouver instead. In 1882, he was hired by the Canadian Pacific Railway as a bookkeeper, timekeeper and paymaster for the Chinese workers that were building the railway line. He became superintendent for the workers and oversaw 7,000 of them. In 1888, he started his own import/export and labour contracting company – Wing Sang, meaning “everlasting”.

The two-storey portion of the Wing Sang building was built in 1889 and is the oldest remaining building in Chinatown. It was extended horizontally in 1901 and had an extra storey added too. In 1912, a six-storey warehouse and residence for his family was built at the back of the property. The residence was particularly necessary, as he had three wives and 23 children (his first wife died in China in 1885).

After the railway was completed, Chinese people were subject to increased discrimination and racist policies. It’s a testament to Yip Sang’s character that he was able to build up such a successful business at this time, as well as helping to found the Chinese Benevolent Association of Vancouver, the Chinese Board of Trade of Vancouver, and a hospital and public school for the Chinese community of Vancouver.

Yip Sang died in 1927. The building is now the Chinese Canadian Museum.

Vancouver’s 100 Centennial Plaques

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