Local History Advent Calendar 2022 – Day 15 – Sing Kee & Wo Lung Quong Laundries

It’s back! I has been 3 years since I published my last Local History Advent Calendar! So much has happened since that last time—including the publication of my first book, Mount Pleasant Stories—that I figured it was about time to dust off the Local History Advent Calendar once again. Similar to a regular advent calendar but instead of chocolate treats, each day you “open” a new historical treat. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder– 24 facts or stories about local history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

1912 Fire Insurance Plan, the two laundry buildings are circled. Notice how close they were to Vancouver Breweries and Brewery Creek. CoV Archives.

Around 1911 two Chinese Canadian laundry businesses were established on the 200 block of East 6th Avenue. Historical building permits show that Chin Mah had a “Chinese Laundry” designed by architect Edward E. Blackmore built at 263 East 6th for $2000 while Toy Loy Wong made additions and alterations to an existing wood frame building at 251 East 6th for a laundry. They were among the twelve Chinese-run laundries operating in Mount Pleasant circa 1912. Sing Kee (Sing Gee) Laundry was located at 263 East 6th and Yee Lee Laundry (later Wo Lung Quong Laundry) was at 251 East 6th. 

Early Chinese immigrants, faced with systematic discrimination in Canada, often had little choice but to create their own economic niche. Many of Canada’s predominantly male Chinese immigrants chose laundry work. 

The 1921 Canada Census shows that 45-year-old “Gee Sing” was renting the building at 263 East 6th for his laundry business. Also living and working on the premises were his two teenage sons, a cousin, and three roomers–all males. Racist laws such as the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885 & 1923 first limited and later prevented immigration from China, meaning families were torn apart. Many men were forced to live as bachelors.

200 Block E6th north side, Fire Insurance Plan, Vol. 3, 1930, sheet 341, CoV Archives

Quong Wo Lung Laundry was in operation until around 1930, while Sing Kee Laundry operated until about 1972, making it one of Vancouver’s last and longest operating independent Chinese-Canadian laundry businesses.

You can find this and other Mount Pleasant stories in my walking tour book, Mount Pleasant Stories. Copies are available for purchase in Mount Pleasant at Pulpfiction Books – 2422 Main Street and in Chinatown at Massy Books – 229 E Georgia St. It makes a great gift or stocking stuffer for your favourite local history buff!

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