This great image is from the CBC Vancouver Media Archives Still Photograph Collection. It sparked some curiosity amongst my fellow library and archives types — Where was Sarah’s Cafe ? Does the building still exist today?
With former VPL Special Collections Librarian, Andrew Martin on the case, it didn’t take long to find out:
- By searching the Vancouver city directories and telephone books from the 1950s. In the city directories Sarah’s Grill is listed at 218 E. Georgia. It was run by a Sarah Cassell. It was listed from 1957 up until at least 1961.
- In the Vancouver telephone books there is a Sarah’s Cafe listed at 220 E. Georgia. It is listed from 1957 up until at least 1960.
- Looking at a fire insurance map it shows 220 E. Georgia on the south side of the street and beside (east side) a north south alley (the one parallels Main St. on the east side).
Franz Lindner, a contract photographer for CBC Vancouver, took many pictures of the area … Sarah’s Cafe being one. His assignment was to shoot publicity photos for the CBC Times (programming guide) feature on the radio documentary, “G.O.M.” (God’s Own Medicine). A radio documentary that aired June 5, 1960 on CBC radio. According to the CBC times, ”G.O. M. will offer the total picture of addiction in Canada, with emphasis on the seat of the concentration, Vancouver”. So it seems fitting that Lindner would choose the area then know as Skid Row, now known as the DTES – Chinatown.
Although this image was not published in CBC Times, it is part of a series of images shot for the assignment. One of the images from that series was ultimately used as the cover photo for the CBC Times for that week.
So, that just leaves one question. Does the building still exist today? A quick check in Google Maps Street View for 220 E. Georgia revealed that the building does indeed exist today. A little worse for wear, perhaps, but considering it is over 100 years old, it is looking pretty good.
I was recently in the area, and took this photo of the building and alley today.
It is interesting to note the difference the construction of the Georgia Viaduct had on the neighbourhood. In the photo from 1960, the neighbourhood seems to go on forever (or at least for several blocks). In the photo above, it ends abruptly a block away. Hard to imagine the impact that would have had on the people that lived and worked there.
3 thoughts on “Sarah’s Cafe”
As a young Black Male 16 years of age. I lived across the street from Sarah’s cafe at 209 Union St. A grandson of Vie Moore, and brother of Randy Clark I would walk across the street to visit and talk with Sarah. She would talk to me while fixing hamburger and fries (chips) as she called them.
Sarah was a wealth of Information I appreciated and needed as a young Black male new to Canada and the Community. Our family relocated to Vancouver from San Francisco, California the summer of 1965.
I always remember Sarah for the advice she offered.
Sarah has remainded in my memory to this day. When my family reminisces about Hogans Alley we Always talk about Sarah’s.
Thank you so much, Albert, for sharing your experiences with Sarah Cassell and her cafe. It sounds like she really made an impression on you (and your whole Family), and helped you when you were a newcomer to this city – an experience she would have been very familiar with herself. Stories like yours and Randy’s make me wish even more that I had the chance to have known Sarah. I’m just glad I had the opportunity to know about her just a tiny bit through her story told so many years later. If only we were able to go back in time, even if just for a moment.