Due to its relative affordability and its close proximity to labouring jobs along the port and on False Creek, the old East End became the logical place for many newcomers fresh off the boat or train to settle in Vancouver. The different colours on the ethnographic and demographic map of the old East End ebbed and flowed in complex patterns as certain communities would establish themselves along various streets, then expand or blur in a number of directions. Early on Italian families tended to dominate along Union and Prior, while certain sections of Keefer and Georgia were populated with Jewish families. The Japanese, until the forced relocation and internment of 1942, lived in concentration along Powell, Alexander and East Cordova, while the Chinese community expanded over the decades east along Pender and Keefer from the early confinements of Chinatown. South and East of Chinatown, mostly centred on the blocks of Prior and Union between Main and Jackson, a large number of Black families settled forming the nucleus of what later became known as Hogan’s Alley. Sprinkled here and there were clusters of seafaring families from Brigus and Bay Roberts, Newfoundland along Harris (East Georgia), Keefer, and the 600 and 700-blocks of Carl (Princess) Avenue. There were significant numbers of Norwegians, Swedes and Finns, Russians, Ukrainians, and Yugoslavs. There were even quite a few Arab Christian families escaping from the internecine wars around Mount Lebanon in the Ottoman province of Syria laced into the mixture.
As diverse as the ethnic and social mix was the diversity of housing in the East End. People lived in a variety of housing types, from humble row houses, tenements and pioneer cottages to turreted Queen Anne and Victorians and stately porched Edwardian boxes. Single family dwellings quite often functioned as boarding houses. Here and there, especially on street corners, three to four storey apartment buildings were erected, often containing corner stores. Much later, in the 1960s and 70s came the Vancouver specials, the CMHC Projects and later the Joe Wai-designed SPOTA houses. Today, a century and a quarter after the Great Fire of 1886, Strathcona, the heart of Vancouver’s old East End, stretches from Gore Avenue in the West to Clark Drive on the East, from Burrard Inlet on the north, south to Malkin Street.
Though some of its historic ethnography has shifted, the neighbourhood is as diverse as ever. We are a multi-racial, multi-cultural neighbourhood. Strathcona's residents occupy the entire spectrum from home owners to renters, people who still live in row houses and those who live in apartments, strata and co-ops, and includes people living in assisted and low income housing, and yes, those who are struggling to find a home. We are young and old, gay and straight. We are just as much a community of walkers, cyclists, transit users, and skate boarders as we are car users. It is this unique rich spectrum and delicate balance that is so valuable and sets Strathcona apart from other Vancouver neighbourhoods. History-proud Strathcona, the heart of Vancouver’s old East End, has a magic all its own. Traditionally a "community" has been defined as a group of interacting people living in a common location. Though of many backgrounds and traditions, and living in varying conditions, the history and special circumstances of our common location, Strathcona, imbues this neighbourhood’s residents with a deep sense of place and pride. Whether by accident or choice, we are all East Enders living in Strathcona, and that means something.
Photo middle: 1970's Joe Wai designed SPOTA houses today. Photo courtesy James Johnstone
Photo bottom: Koo's Garage on Hawks Avenue, 2010 photo by Kristopher Grunert for a Globe and Mail feature