Established: 1975 | Signs (at Peak): 2222 | Signs (Currently): 23+

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Hastings Part I
Lighting up a new city
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Hastings Part II
Decline and shift

Vancouver’s original downtown hub attracted thousands of people from surrounding neighbourhoods to shop, dine, and enjoy vaudeville entertainment in the first half of the 20th century.

The BC Electric Railway Company built the flagship terminal for its Interurban streetcar system at Hastings and Carrall in 1911. From that year until its closure in 1958, the Interurban brought 10,000 people to Hastings every day.

In the late ‘50s, the family-oriented commercial activity that used to thrive on Hastings moved west to Granville. By the 1960s, Hastings became a social hub for seasonal fishermen, loggers, and longshoremen. These sojourners replaced the vaudeville patrons and families who had flowed through in previous decades as new commercial businesses moved west.

The abundance of neon signage on Hastings Street became an issue starting in the mid-1960s, when anti-neon sentiments started creeping into popular conversation and resulted in a restrictive neon sign bylaw in 1974. One block south on Pender Street, the sparkling menagerie of neon signs in Chinatown faced a similar downward trajectory.

“Chinatown’s existence is owed to isolation, imposed isolation, by a relatively racist society.”

— Jim Wong-Chu, Chinatown historian

Prior to the anti-neon crusade and attendant sign bylaw, Chinatown was one of Vancouver's most striking neon neighbourhoods. The signs acted as a visual symbol of a community staking its claim as part of a city with a complex history of institutionalized racism.

As the signs were taken down as a consequence of the restrictive neon bylaw, Chinatown entered a period of flux. Through the ‘80s and ‘90s, most remaining neon signs deteriorated, and some were removed altogether. The fading lights of Chinatown’s streets reflected the waning intensity of civic attention to the neighborhood.

Now, bolstered by a new municipal granting program, neon is making a slow return to the Hastings and Chinatown neighbourhoods. But the streets have yet to match the vitality that characterized the neon heyday of previous decades.

Photo gallery

Get a closer look at this neighbourhood and the business it represents. All photos are provided by the MOV.
Balmoral Hotel and Blue Eagle Cafe on Hastings
Women outside the Loggers Club 1998
Signs on Hastings
Hastings Streetcar 1954
Women's Memorial March 2010
Main and Hastings
Chinatown Neon 1950s
Chinatown Neon 1950s
Chinese Dragon Parade 1960
Ho Ho Chop Suey sign 1961
Men at Pender and Carrall 1936
Smilin' Buddha 1964
Chinatown neon
Ho Inn Chop Suey sign
Ming's and Bamboo Terrace
Signs on Hastings
Vancouver signs
Vancouver signs

flickr FEED

User-submitted photos from our three Flickr groups. If you have a Flickr account, you can contribute by joining the Visible City - Hastings-Chinatown group and adding your photos of Vancouver's neon neighbourhoods
concept, A/R mov app. for neon
Hastings Signs
Neon Detail
Neon Night
blue eagle
the only
Neon - Boots by Dayton
Save on Meats
Dayton Boots Neon

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