In honour of Black History Month, and in continuation of our anti-racist, diversity, and inclusion workplace initiatives, we’d like to acknowledge a local Vancouver organization, the Hogan’s Alley Society.
Hogan’s Alley was a popular neighbourhood for Black Canadians in the first half of the 20th century. It’s steps away from the OXD Gastown office in Vancouver, and has a unique—and fairly unknown—history.
The alley ran between Union and Prior Streets from approximately Main Street to Jackson Avenue. Many of its residents worked as porters at the nearby Great Northern Railway Station at Terminal and Main.
At its height in the 1940s, the Black population in the Strathcona region (where Hogan’s Alley was located) was approximately 800 people and it was a popular destination for food and jazz. It was also one of the few places Black people could go in Vancouver to escape the racial segregation that was common in some of the surrounding areas.
The neighborhood was home to several speakeasies and restaurants such as Vie’s Chicken and Steak House, which was visited by the likes of Jimi Hendrix (whose mother was a cook there), Lena Horne, Sammy Davis Jr., and Louis Armstrong. Vie herself was born on Saltspring Island, from a BC family who were descendants of free Blacks from California.
By the 1960s urban renewal took over and most of the Hogan’s Alley neighbourhood was demolished to make room for a freeway network connecting the highway to downtown Vancouver. As with many communities, such projects were often forced through poor neighbourhoods where the citizens had little power to stop it. The project was never fully completed due to community protests led by local residents, but the viaduct still stands today and serves as a reminder of the Black residents that were forced out. Spend a few minutes watching this short film that shares more about this special history of Vancouver’s Hogan’s Alley.
Very little of Hogan’s Alley is around today but its legacy lives on. The Hogan’s Alley Society is a non-profit organization composed of civil rights activists, business professionals, community organizations, artists, writers, and academics committed to bringing awareness to the presence of Black history in Vancouver, and throughout British Columbia.
For more information, additional resources, or to get involved in their latest projects, please visit www.hogansalleysociety.org/about-hogans-alley-society/.