The Hogan’s Alley Memorial Project

Hogan's Alley Memorial Project members, left to right: Karina Vernon, Naomi Moyer and Wayde Compton.

Hogan’s Alley Memorial Project members, left to right: Karina Vernon, Naomi Moyer and Wayde Compton.

The Hogan’s Alley Memorial Project was founded in 2002 with the goal of preserving the public memory of Vancouver’s original black neighbourhood. See HAMP’s blog here.

“Hogan’s Alley” was the local, unofficial name for Park Lane, an alley that ran through the southwestern corner of Strathcona (a district in Vancouver’s East End) during the first six decades of the twentieth century. While Hogan’s Alley and the surrounding area was an ethnically diverse neighbourhood during this era, home to many Italian, Chinese and Japanese Canadians, a number of black families, black businesses, and the city’s only black church — the African Methodist Episcopal Fountain Chapel — were located there. As such, Hogan’s Alley was the first and last neighbourhood in Vancouver with a substantial concentrated black population. Most of Hogan’s Alley was destroyed circa 1970 by the City Council’s construction of the Georgia Viaduct, the first phase of a planned interurban freeway originally intended to wipe out all of Hogan’s Alley and to cut nearby Chinatown in half. The freeway was stopped by Strathcona community activists, but not before Hogan’s Alley was effectively obliterated. Today, the block or so that is left of the alley itself bears no mark that there was ever a black presence there, having become part of greater Chinatown. Nevertheless, the building that was the Fountain Chapel still stands, and is still a church, having been handed over to the Chinese Lutherans in the 1980s. (When HAMP visited the old Fountain Chapel — then the Basel Hakka Lutheran Church — in 2002, the pastors were very friendly and open to our investigations, and the older of the two we met remembered buying the church from the A.M.E. in 1985, and wondered if we had “come home.” We explained that, though none of us in particular had ever been there before, the site has a historical significance for the black community; the younger pastor told us that they too regarded the site as originary, because it had been a German and Norwegian Lutheran church from 1903 until 1918, when it was bought by Strathcona’s black Christians. Nora Hendrix describes the purchase of the church in Opening Doors: Vancouver’s East End [1979], a book edited by Daphne Marlatt and Carole Itter; the interview is reprinted in Bluesprint.)

HAMP’s original goal was to publically memorialize the black community that once constellated around this neighbourhood by erecting a plaque or monument at the former site itself. As a step towards this, after its foundation, HAMP began researching and gathering information about the neighbourhood from public archives and directly from individuals who once resided there or whose families lived there. The sum of this research appeared in February 2003 at the Roundhouse Community Centre as Hogan’s Alley Revisited, a public exhibition of photographs, newspaper articles, audio interviews, and artefacts. An opening night for the exhibition featured speakers including former residents of the community itself, as well as musicians and others.