Historic Building Restoration The Mah BuildingPender St , Vancouver B. C.
The Mah Society Building at 137 East Pender Street in Vancouver's Chinatown is a substantial five-storey brick building with a store at street level, a three-storey rooming house above, and a tong meeting hall on the top storey.HERITAGE VALUEThe heritage value of the Mah Society Building lies in the way its original construction and subsequent alteration reflect key periods in the establishment of the Chinese-Canadian community in Vancouver. The construction in 1913 of the original building to the designs of Henry Barton Watson, which housed the Kwong Fong grocery at street level with a rooming house - the Minglee Rooms - above, speaks to the importance of this part of East Pender Street as the Chinese-Canadian retail hub and to the continuing need for rooms for Chinese immigrants. Watson's design was of particular note for being the earliest identified example of the use of Chinese architectural motifs (now sadly lost) in the form a pagoda-roofed cornice, and Chinese temple-shaped finials. The addition of the top storey in 1921, by architect E.J. Boughen, for meeting rooms for the Mah Gim Do Hung Society (later the Mah Society of North America) is representative of the trend in early twentieth-century Chinatown for building tong meeting rooms atop existing buildings, thereby imbuing them with status through height. The continuing use of the space by the Mah Society consolidates the building's value. Source: City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program