Oldest building in Vancouver’s Chinatown soon to be home to Chinese Canadian Museum

The oldest building in Vancouver’s historic Chinatown neighbourhood is getting a new lease on life.

The Wing Sang Building on East Pender, which was first constructed in 1889, will soon be home to the Chinese Canadian Museum.

Local real estate marketer Bob Rennie acquired it in 2004, saving it from redevelopment.

“What had happened is, a lady had bought it and I phoned the real estate sign in the window and they said she was going to build a tower there,” he recalls. “I said, ‘No-one’s going to build a tower and tear down the oldest building in Chinatown!’ And I got a call February of 2004, 9:00 in the morning saying, ‘If you give us $50,000 by the five o’clock, you can have our contract.'”


The building was all but abandoned when Rennie began an extensive heritage restoration and renovation.

“I’d never been in the building, I just felt really good about it,” he admits. “But the back building of six storeys, with half the windows broken out, had literally two to three feet of dead pigeons because they’d fly in the upper windows and go down the stairs and get stuck. And it was one month of HAZMAT suits having people remove everything.”

Rennie has located his business and personal art collection there since 2004.  He says the museum will be moving in at the end of the year.

“And I believe their first show next September, September of ’23, is in parallel with the hundredth anniversary of the Chinese Exclusion Act.”

The Chinese Canadian Museum Society received $27.5 million from the province to acquire the building, while Rennie is kicking in $7.8 million to ensure it is sustainable in its mission.

The museum is expected to open in 2023.

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