Japantown

The Oppenheimer neighbourhood is often identified by the park of the same name, and is sometimes referred to as the heart of the Downtown Eastside. The area has been home to numerous immigrant groups over the past 120 years. Its most notable early association is with the social, economic and cultural activities of the Japanese-Canadian community from the 1890s to 1942.

Panorama looking northwest: E. Cordova Street and Oppenheimer Park in right foreground, 1887, Major Matthews Collection, P223 & Van Sc P59.1

Panorama looking northwest: E. Cordova Street and Oppenheimer Park in right foreground, 1887, Major Matthews Collection, P223 & Van Sc P59.1

Hastings Mill, 1886 Major Matthews Collection Wat P3

Hastings Mill 1886
Major Matthews Collection

Through the 1890s, the area experienced rapid development of housing for both wealthy and labourers alike. By the end of the decade, however, the wealthy had relocated to the West End and Fairview Slopes, leaving the Powell area distinctly working class. The extension of the street car line on Powell Street in 1890 also spurred commercial development – initially in the 200 and 400 blocks – transforming these from houses to commercial and hotel/boarding house uses.

Streetcar Extension Along Powell, 1889 Major Matthews Collection; Trans N7

Streetcar Extension Along Powell 1889
Major Matthews Collection

Sawmills were the dominant local industry. Stamps Mill, located at the foot of Gore Avenue, was established in 1865 by Captain Edward Stamp. The mill was unable to make a profit and was ultimately sold to Captain James A. Raymur from San Francisco. Under his ownership, it became known as Hastings Mill. It employed a large number of Chinese immigrants who had previously worked on the railway. In the late 1800s the first Canadians of Japanese descent settled in the neighbourhood, many who worked at Hastings Mill. The area quickly became known as Hastings Mill.

Learn more about the early development, its culture, and people
Watch a video about the history of the area
Watch a video about the Powell Street Open Window Project

Dales House, 414 Alexander Street, c.1895 Major Matthews Collection, SGN295

Dales House
414 Alexander Street c.1895
Major Matthews Collection

In more recent times, the neighbourhood has become a focus of cultural activities for a diverse number of groups, including First Nations, and it retains its working-class roots. Some of the earliest housing stock in the city remains along Alexander and Cordova Street.

Franciscan Sisters of Atonement House, 385 East Cordova (1887)

Franciscan Sisters of Atonement House
385 East Cordova 1887

Today, the Oppenheimer area includes a provincial court house, police station and fire hall that serve the neighbouring communities. The neighbourhood centre of Powell Street includes retail, restaurants, cafes, grocery, live theatre and artists’ studios, social service centres and some light industrial activities.

Source – City of Vancouver