Lost Japanese neighbourhood rediscovered in Vancouver heritage home designation

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      Remnants are all that remain of what used to be Vancouver’s Japantown.

      Prior to the Second World War and the internment of Canadians of Japanese origin, the area around Oppenheimer Park was home to a thriving Japanese Canadian community.

      There were likely other but smaller Japanese neighbourhoods in the city, and one of them has been rediscovered near False Creek.

      It’s in Mount Pleasant, where Japanese apartments, schools, a laundry, and a church were found in the area around Columbia Street and West 5th Avenue.

      Like Japantown, this Japanese Canadian community has been lost.

      “The area once featured a large Japanese Canadian community associated with the mills and factories along False Creek, which lasted until the deportation orders issued in 1943,” according to Anita Molaro, who is the city’s assistant planning director for urban design and heritage.

      Molaro was writing about the heritage designation of a home that was owned by a Japanese family at 2040 Columbia Street in the neighbourhood.

      Known as the Lougheed house, the residence belonged to a Japanese family from 1938 up to 1943, when Japanese Canadians were interned because of the war.

      “The Lougheed Residence at 2040 Columbia Street was built in 1909 and is one of the dwindling number of houses built in the early twentieth century to have survived in the Mount Pleasant industrial area, which was rapidly transformed from a residential neighbourhood into an industrial area starting in the 1940s and 1950s,” according to Molaro.

      The City of Vancouver earlier received an application from Sandra Moore of Birmingham and Wood Architects to add the home to the city’s heritage registry.

      The application also involves the addition of a new seven-storey jewellery manufacturing building.

      In her report, Molaro pointed out that under the current zoning, the home located at the northeast corner of Columbia Street and West 5th Avenue could be demolished without council approval.

      “The Lougheed Residence is in good condition,” Molaro wrote. “While conversion to a manufacturing use of a former residential building presents a number of challenges, in this case, staff support the rehabilitation scheme proposed for the heritage building.”

      According to Molaro, the exterior of the home will be “retained and repaired”.

      Council voted unanimously on September 5 to add 2040 Columbia Street to the Vancouver Heritage Register.

      Vancouver city council has approved the addition of this former Japanese residence at 2040 Columbia Street to the city’s heritage registry.


      An artist’s rendering of the proposed redevelopment of the 2020 Columbia Street property.