Posted on June 25, 2009
VICE IS NICE
The City of Vancouver has a long-standing reputation of being a “no-fun” city. I politely beg to differ.
The truth is that Vancouver’s humble beginnings are steeped in a dark underworld filled with drugs, gambling, prostitution, drunkenness, stripping and searing hot racial tension.
Join me, if you will, on the Vancouver Police Museum’s infamous Sins of the City walking tour. That said, one could call the name of the tour somewhat misleading because wouldn’t calling them “sins” imply that drugs, sex and booze are bad?
The first stop on our tour was a storefront on Pender Street in Chinatown. Below street level of rows upon rows of 100+ year-old buildings exist defunct lairs, once home to brothels, gambling spaces or opium dens designated for both smoking and trading the drug.
From about a decade into the turn of the century until the late 1920s, the illegal activity on this beat was largely reined in by Detectives Sinclair and Ricci. It’s said that throughout the duration of their careers, the duo busted the modern-day equivalent of millions upon millions of dollars worth of opium.
When ripping cardboard off the walls, it was discovered that the insulation was due in part to newspaper from the 1920s. Needless to say, mold was everywhere.
Photo: miss604 on Flickr
A sad mark on Vancouver’s history, three major race riots errupted: once in the late 1800s, again in 1907 and lastly in 1935. The Chinese population was mainly targeted, but the Japanese were also victimized. This tile mosaic in the downtown eastside depicts a Noodle House window being smashed with a stick to commemorate these despicable events.
The Vancouver Police museum itself, originally started by a group of retired VPD officers, is packed full of memorabilia from the Force’s early beginnings, drug samples, crime scene re-enactments and countless seized weapons. This nail-speared baseball bat was seized in 1980 from a 10-year-old boy if you can believe it.
The museum also houses the City’s first morgue and what was the VPD’s CSI unit until 10 years ago. Crime scene investigation is now conducted at various places around Vancouver, but the ballistics lab is located next door.
I know I said I was going to try and stop dying my hair, but after seeing this pic, I am convinced it’s time to go and grab a box of cruelty-free Revlon.
Among the artifacts of crime on site are mug shots from the early 1900s, including this gem. William Hamilton and two associates were nabbed on May 28, 1916 for conspiracy to murder.
In the basement of the museum you’ll find the former blood-drying room where blood-soaked evidence was hung to dry out. Just off this room we found the overflow morgue.
I’m a Bobby girl, in a Bobby world.
I make kevlar look good.
Trust me… it feels really sexy to be wearing it.
Tsk, tsk, tsk…
You can also read what Rebecca had to say about the tour while checking the rest of my photos, Rebecca’s photos and John’s photos. I owe a huge thanks to Chris at the Vancouver Police Museum for this fun and unique experience!
All four of us learned an insane amount of information, history and fascinating facts about Vancouver’s history of vice crime – packing it all into a blog post would be impossible! I’ve long been eerily fascinated with all things macabre, so I found the Sins of the City tour particularly of interest. I highly suggest checking this out and stopping by the Vancouver Police Museum to discover a piece of Vancouver’s past. Visit the museum’s website for more information.