FORMER HO LEM BLOCK
The Golden Happiness Bakery building was renovated in 1989 by Clem Lau.
HO LEM BLOCK
The buildings were constructed in 1911. In this render, they're depicted in their 1960s state.
WITH CLEM LAU (ARCHITECT OF THE LATE 1980s RENOVATIONS ON THE GOLDEN HAPPINESS BAKERY)
+ You worked on the renovation of this building after a fire occurred. What design decisions did you make to upgrade the building and why?
We were just commissioned to restore the building to its original, usable state.
+ Who was your client / who commissioned you to renovate the building?
The client was the late Mr. Chao.
He was the owner of the Double Happiness Bakery Store.
+ Were you trying to maintain any historical elements of the building?
We were asked to maintain all the character and look of the original building.
+ As the architect for this building’s renovation, tell me a bit about your design decisions for the building. How did you think that the building would express “Chinese character” or fit into Chinatown?
The original building fit in the character of Chinatown quite well, as it was part of the older development styles with brick in front.
However, this client did not like the building front to have a “flat” face. He wanted some elements to take the flatness out. Therefore, the bowed window on the second floor was introduced. We also changed all of the window frames to gold color, and added some brick trim highlights using a different color. He wanted the building to look “flashy”.
+ Do you have any interesting or funny stories about the building’s design or construction process you’d like to share?
This restoration process turned out to be a complete rebuild. The remaining portion of the building collapsed as the restoration process started.
The whole structure ended up being brand new, and it gave us an opportunity to make an addition to the rear of the existing building.
The original building had a rumor that it was haunted, because the woman who lived on the second floor hung herself after killing her infant child – driven to the edge by her gambler husband.
with Fred Louie (President of the Shon Yee Association) & Dick Lam (Member)
+ What’s your story? How long have you been in Chinatown?
I’ve been involved for the last 15 years in the Shon Yee Benevolent Association, which is a regional association from the Zhong Shan area of China.
+ When was this building constructed?
We have two buildings, one on 200 / 114 Third Avenue SE and this one at 109 Second Avenue.
It used to be a combined building with the bakery. It was built in the 1890s and used to be Ho Lem Block.
The association bought the building in 1972, when we started using it for our association. Not much renovation was done. We bought the building from the Chinese National League.
Before, it was a printing shop on the main floor, and unsure about the occupants of the top floor.
Before 1972, we owned property on 3rd Ave (our other property, where the Tang Dynasty restaurant is located.) We also had a space by the U&Me building — in that block, we had a unit that we rented out. This was a small storefront area, way back in the 1950s, in the building that I believe was owned by the W.K. restaurant.
+ Do you know of any major renovations or modifications to the building?
The appearance of the building is similar to what you’re seeing today. The exterior has had no major renovation, and we’ve done interior renovations here and there. About 6 years ago, we repainted it. The structure is original — It is two stories, like when we purchased it, and like it was in the 1920s.
+ Who are the current tenants and users of this building?
Shon Yee Association on the top floor. On the top floor we conduct our association business; we accommodate members to stay there sometimes on a weekend basis.
On the main floor, we rent it out to different folks as a commercial space. In the 1980s, it was rented to the Leung Kee Meat Shop.
+ What was on this land before this building was built How was the land acquired?
HISTORIC BUILDING PHOTOGRAPHS
HO LEM BLOCK - 1968 / 1969
Photograph courtesy of the Allison Jackson Photograph Collection.
CURRENT DAY BUILDING PHOTOGRAPHS
The trio of attached buildings, photographed in 2020.