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Remembering Hogan's Alley

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – It was once the home of the Lower Mainland’s black community, before it was cleared out to make way for the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts more than 40 years ago.

But today Hogan’s Alley is finally getting its due, with a special plaque presentation this afternoon.

“In the early 1900s, it was home to a very large concentration of blacks and it’s really the only concentration that the city has ever had,” explains Diane Switzer, executive director of the Vancouver Heritage Foundation.

The foundation has listed Hogan’s Alley as number 50 of its 125 Places That Matter and will present a plaque this afternoon at Hogan’s Alley Cafe.

A little known part of Vancouver’s Strathcona neighbourhood, Hogan’s Alley was located roughly south of Union and north of Prior, east of Main and west of Gore, before being cleared out in the early 70s to make way for the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts.

“They were part of a larger, supposed to be a much larger network of freeways in the city that has never come to be and it’s important to kind of talk about what was there and what should go back when we take the viaducts down,” says Switzer.

She adds while it’s important to mark the history that survives, it’s just as vital to mark what we’ve lost. “It’s unfortunate if we’re going to not tell the stories like the black history.  I mean, how many people know that Jimi Hendrix’s grandmother was in Vancouver?  There’s a lot of people [who] don’t know that story and it’s all part and parcel of telling the whole continuum.”

In fact, one of the few reminders Hogan’s Alley even existed is the Jimi Hendrix Shrine at the corner of Main and Union, once home to Vie’s Chicken and Steak House, where the guitar legend’s grandmother worked for many years.

“And it was just one of many black commercial establishments in the area.  There were other restaurants, but Vie’s was perhaps the best known and it was the hub.”

Switzer admits the Hendrix link continues to captivate both locals and tourists.

“People’s eyes certainly go a little wide when you say, ‘oh, did you that there’s an association in Vancouver with Jimi Hendrix and that his grandmother lived in Strathcona?’ and I think it piques their interest more.”

Today’s plaque presentation happens at 2:00 p.m.