About laniwurm

Lani Russwurm lives with his daughter in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. He holds an MA in history and a BA in political science from Simon Fraser University, and started Past Tense as a way of sharing interesting bits of local history he comes across in the course of his research.

Early Vancouver Youth Gangs

East End boys, probably up to no good, ca. 1890. City of Vancouver Archives #CVA 371-1023 (cropped)

East End boys, clearly up to no good, ca. 1890. City of Vancouver Archives #371-1023 (cropped)

I’m turning this post over to a reporter from the Vancouver Daily World. It’s an exposé published on Friday, 15 July 1892, sounding the alarm about youth gangs and juvenile delinquency among boys, including some from “well-to-do” homes. The writer urges a curfew to solve the problem, but similar neighbourhood-based gangs persisted in the city for at least another hundred years, and later included girls as well as boys.




Bad Lessons Are Being Learned By Young Lads In This City.


Parents Would Be Grieved Did They Know Where and How Their Children Spend the Nights — Juvenile Cigarette Fiends

A burst of profanity that would have brought a blush to the cheek of an Arizona terror startled the ear of a World reporter as he passed along Hastings street a few evenings ago. It was coarse profanity, interspersed with obscenity, and emphasized by blasphemy, and was followed by a scuffle. Looking round behind the billboard where the noise came from the reporter saw three small boys. The two larger of the trio were fighting and swearing, the third with blue eyes extended wide stood looking on. He evidently was unused to this style of thing and his bedimpled face and curly hair seemed out of place in such a curse-burdened atmosphere. After the fight the victor picked up a bit of a cigarette which had evidently been the prize of battle and lighting it puffed it vigorously into the face of the vanquished, who showed his spleen by another outpouring of choice expletives. A look at the lads showed them to be the children of well-to-do people and very evidently not members of the waif colony. This incident led the newspaper man to conjecture if it were not possible for more youngsters to be coming up in this way. If the children of respectable parents were so doing, others might also be eluding paternal vigilance and maternal care and be indulging in practices pernicious, character-ruining and constitution-destroying.

Investigations made shocked and startled him. This is not intended as a scare article, it is merely given out as a warning. No one knows better than a reporter that to tell people their children are bad, earns no thanks but incites indignation. You never can make a mother believe that her boy is bad no matter what he does. He may be impulsive or easily led, but beyond that she will not go. Did these mothers know where some of the boys spend their nights and the practices they indulge in they would have many a heart-ache. Names in this article are purposely withheld. Parents throughout the city can take the hints given and by a little skillful questioning find out if it is their boy who is at fault. If it is, a little kindness and a determined effort to get him to take an interest in his home will be good medicine. Spare the rod and spoil the child sounds trite enough, but a boy will persist in running away whenever he can from a home with which he is not sympathetic.

Members of the Vancouver football club at George Black's. Photo by Charles S Bailey (cropped) 3 May 1890, City of Vancouver Archives #Sp P58

Some members of the Vancouver football club at George Black’s place. A few look like they may have been troublemakers. Photo by Charles S Bailey (cropped), 3 May 1890, City of Vancouver Archives #Sp P58

On Hastings street, no matter exactly where, is an empty house that has been for sometime used as the headquarters for a gang of tough boys. These lads are bound together in a ku-klux-klan brotherhood that has grips, signs, warning words and an obligation, and none of them are more than 12 years old. This would be all right were their objects good, but they are not. They first started to learn to smoke cigarettes and most of them succeeded, and now they generally manage by hook or by crook to have a supply. A short time ago several of them stole liquor from their fathers’ stock and brought it to their rendezvous, and as a result there were a number of very sick young stomachs. Then the vile dime literature got in its work and they thought that they were below caste if they could not steal a little from some place other than home. About that time a lot of pipes and tobacco and about a hundred cigars were added to the stores. Where they came from deponent saith not, but they were not paid for. One of them boasted a short time ago that he had stolen two villainous books while purchasing one.

“The old Secord house” was built in 1890 as a family-friendly establishment, but two years later was a favourite haunt of the city’s young hooligans. The building is now known as the Marr and still stands on the northeast corner of Dunlevy and Powell streets. It is currently being renovated (sans verandas) by BC Housing as supportive housing for women. City of Vancouver Archives #Hot P85

“The old Secord house” was a temperance hotel built by Angus Secord in 1890. For a time, the veranda in the back was the meeting place for the neighbourhood’s young hooligans. The building is now called the Marr and stands on the northeast corner of Dunlevy and Powell streets. It is currently being renovated (sans verandas) by BC Housing as supportive housing for women. City of Vancouver Archives #Hot P85

On Powell street is the headquarters of another crowd of kids, not so elaborately bound together as the one just mentioned. Its principal object is to tell filthy stories and smoke cigarettes. These boys used to congregate on the back verandah of the old Secord house, but have lately had to find another meeting place. There was a suspicion in the mind of the gentleman who told the reporter of this band that the older boys were indulging in still worse practices, and parents who reside in the vicinity should make an examination or call in a physician. Details are unnecessary on this point and the fearful constitutional results are fully known.

Still another party, known as the “alley gang,” make a practice of stealing from stores where they are employed, disposing of the goods, and buying food and even liquor with the money received therefor. The existence of this organization is no secret. Three or four of them have been in the police court, and are out on suspended sentence. The World knows that they still spend more money than could be afforded by persons with double or even treble their salary.

The Mount Pleasant and Westminster avenue section is not without its complement, though it has been weakened by the turning over of a new leaf by the West boys. It still retains its penchant for getting possession of fire-arms, no matter how old or antiquated, despite the fact that three of their members have been accidentally shot, two in the leg and one in the hand. These boys supply the breweries with so many bottles as to give one a very large idea of the drinking powers of the district.

Boys outside East Ender Job Printing Office, no doubt cussing and packing cigarettes, ca. 1890. City of Vancouver Archives #East End boys, probably up to no good, ca. 1890. City of Vancouver Archives #CVA 371-1023 (cropped)

Boys outside East Ender, Job Printing Office, no doubt cursing and packing cigarettes, ca. 1890. City of Vancouver Archives #371-1023 (cropped)

These are only the cases of the boys organized, but parties of two and three can be found in lanes and alleys, in boxes or shed, smoking cigarettes and rehearsing dirty yarns. On Wednesday night when the Chinese band was making such a din on Dupont Street, a World man went down with officer McLean to see what the racket was. In the crowd that was gathered were several juveniles, all puffing cigarettes, cursing, calling the Chinamen vile names, and passing lewd remarks with two or three Mother Hubbarded women of the street. Two of these boys went away somewhere with two Chinamen. Recent disclosures of foul practices among the Celestials cause one to shudder as he imagines into what paths these sons of honest and decent fathers and mothers may be led.

Dupont (now Pender) Street looking east from Carrall, ca. 1900. Photo by Philip T Timms, City of Vancouver Archives #677-26

Dupont (now Pender) Street looking east from Carrall, ca. 1900. This was Vancouver’s red light district before 1906. Photo by Philip T Timms, City of Vancouver Archives #677-26

One thing is certain that despite the law minors can get all the whiskey they want. This has been proven both in and out of the police court, and also that in the teeth of the Provincial statute to the contrary cigarettes are sold to children; and that despite that literature of the most crimson stripe is in circulation among them.

William Hood, Eddie Goddard, and an unknown boy, 1891. They might look bored, but there's a chance they're

William Hood, Eddie Goddard, and an unknown boy, 1891. Are they merely bored, or are they “rehearsing dirty yarns?” Photo by A Savard, City of Vancouver Archives #677-813

Apropos of this here is a quotation from an Ontario contemporary to hand to-day: Owen Sound has adopted a plan similar to that in force in Berlin, and now unless on an errand or accompanied by adults all children under 14 years of age will have to be off the streets at 9 o’clock at night, at which hour the curfew bell will be tolled. The police are authorized to arrest all children found on the streets after the warning has been given. Referring to the inauguration of the new state of affairs, the Owen Sound Advertiser says: “Much amusement was caused on Monday night by the public hearing the first stroke of the bell warning children to be in their proper places of abode for the night. On every hand the whisper went around, ‘That’s the fire alarm!’ but the youngsters knew all the same what it meant and scampered off for home at 2.40 speed, and in less than five minutes after the first stroke of the bell had pealed forth not a kid was to be found on the street. The police have strict orders to enforce this undertaking, and all children under 14 would do well to obey it strictly, as a nice bed at home is much more comfortable than a bed in the cell.”


I suspect the alluded danger supposedly posed by the boys’ associating with Chinese people was opium and gambling specifically, and the racist notion of Chinese depravity generally, a blatant double-standard in light of the behaviours of which these white kids were allegedly expert practitioners. Similarly, the KKK reference highlights the secret society nature of the gangs but doesn’t seem to suggest they had a racist purpose. The unspecified “still worse practices” that lead to “fearful constitutional results” requiring a physician was likely sexual activity, either gay or straight.

A couple of months later, the World claimed that its exposé resulted in better parenting in Vancouver and consequently a lessening of the youth gang problem. Some members of the Alley Gang wound up in police court for various offences. Gang leader Julian Cook and Eddie Wilson were charged with larceny and Julian’s brother, Guy, was nabbed for stealing newspapers from door steps and selling them. William Black was charged with stealing $1.70 from ten year-old Porterfield Wareham, who made “enough money to keep his mother supplied with wood” selling newspapers. All of this, the World pointed out, happened in Vancouver, “not in Whitechapel, London, nor in the slums of New York.”

The Lincoln Club

Avenue Theatre, 11 June 1935. The Lincoln Club at 102 East Georgia was in one of the few buildings behind the theatre and below the viaduct. City of Vancouver Archives #447-395

The Avenue Theatre, 11 June 1935. 102 East Georgia, just west of Main Street and home of the Lincoln Club, is the brick building right behind the theatre and in front of the Gasometer tower. City of Vancouver Archives #447-395

The Lincoln Club was an underground black social club in Vancouver in the late 1910s and early 1920s. It was located at 102 East Georgia Street, just west of Main, which means it was boxed in by the Avenue Theatre on the east and the original Georgia Viaduct on the north, and so was only accessible from below the viaduct and from the alley. During its six-year existence, it took on the role of the city’s earlier railway porters’ clubs as a social hub for Vancouver’s small black community and for performers passing through town on the vaudeville circuits.

The building that housed the Lincoln Club replaced an old horse stable, and first shows up as Central Rooms in 1911. It was a brick building with nineteen rooms, each equipped with a service bell, hot and cold running water, and steam-heat. It was one of the many rooming houses, or Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotels, built during the 1908—1913 boom, but was probably fancier than most.

Shore Street

1913 Fire insurance map showing 102 East Georgia in red. City of Vancouver Archives

1913 Fire insurance map showing 102 East Georgia in red. City of Vancouver Archives

The names of the building’s neighbours listed in the 1911 city directory hint at the nature of the block when it was built: Andrea Morton, Blanche Douglas, Minnie Clayton, Nellie St Clair, Dolly Darlington, Alice Bernard, Blanche Lewis, Ollie Gilbert, Cleo Devere, Jewel Hall, and Kitty Clark. All women, and many with names that sound like hookers from an old west bordello.

Before WWI, red light districts were tolerated in Vancouver based on the idea that prostitution was inevitable, and so concentrating it in one area made it easier to police and minimized the impact of the “social evil” on the rest of the city. The 100 block of Harris Street (as East Georgia was known before the viaduct was built) became a red light district after the sex trade was chased out of Dupont Street and Shanghai and Canton alleys because a train station went in where International Village mall now stands. To allow the more “respectable” denizens of Harris Street east of Main to disassociate from these “undesirables,” the City renamed the 100 block “Shore Street” in 1908, although that name never caught on in popular usage.

Lee Jones, an American "sporting girl" arrested as a "keeper of a disorderly house" for turning tricks in her room above the Utopian Club, a brothel at 169 Harris [Shore] Street on 22 July 1913. City of Vancouver Archives, VPD series #S202, Loc. 37-C-9

Lee Jones was an American “sporting girl” arrested as a “keeper of a disorderly house” for turning tricks in her room above the Utopian Club, a brothel at 169 Harris [Shore] Street on 22 July 1913. City of Vancouver Archives, VPD series #S202, Loc. 37-C-9

Given this context, it was most likely a madam who commissioned the construction of 102 East Georgia Street. Unfortunately for her, a move to push the red light district from Shore Street to Alexander (chosen because few whites lived there) began not long after the building was completed. The only extant photos I could find of the Lincoln Club building show just the top part and were taken from a distance, but the few purpose-built brothels that have survived as low-income housing on Alexander Street give us an idea of how the building likely differed from similar structures.

A rare photo showing the former brothels on the north side of Shore Street after the 1912 relocation of the "restricted district"  to Alexander Street, during the construction of the original Georgia Viaduct. CVA #LGN 1188 (cropped)

A rare view of the brothels on the north side of Shore Street, shortly after the relocation of the “restricted district” to Alexander Street and during construction of the original Georgia Viaduct. CVA #LGN 1188 (cropped)

The Alexander Street brothels are a little more flamboyant than typical SROs, with more decorative features and custom flourishes designed to lure clientele and reflect the owner’s brand. They also differ in that the ground floors were not designed to be leased out as retail space, but rather as common areas that typically included a dining room, bar, and lounge with a piano for entertainment. Although much more modest in scale, Shore and Alexander streets were the closest thing Vancouver had to New Orleans’ famous red light district, Storyville, which happened to be shut down the year the Lincoln Club opened.

Brothels in the red light district era often had musicians on staff, such as William Morrison, the piano player at Mary Scott's house at 666 Alexander Street. He received a 30 day jail sentence as a "frequenter of a house of ill fame" during a crackdown in 1913. City of Vancouver Archives, VPD series #S202, Loc. 37-C-9

Brothels in the red light district era often had musicians on staff, such as William Morrison, the piano player at Mary Scott’s house at 666 Alexander Street. Morrison’s piano playing cost him a 30 day jail sentence as a “frequenter of a house of ill fame” during a 1913 crackdown. City of Vancouver Archives, VPD series #S202, Loc. 37-C-9

Prostitution continued on Shore Street at least until 1913 and construction of the first Georgia Viaduct began the same year. With the lucrative sex trade moving away and the viaduct practically dropped on the Lincoln Club building’s front doorstep, the value of the property plummeted. It was listed for rent in January on “easy terms,” and then for sale in March. “Will sell cheap,” says the ad.

In 1916, 102 East Georgia was owned by a miner named Charles Alexander who spent $1000 on a brick extension to the building. The first time the name “Lincoln Club” appears is when the phone line was installed in 1917. There’s no evidence of prostitution at the club, but there is for that other Storyville institution: jazz. The same year that the Lincoln opened, alcohol prohibition came into effect and kicked off Vancouver’s “jazz age.”

Oscar Holden

Oscar Holden (1887-1969), leader of the jazz band at the Patricia Cabaret, resident of 102 East Georgia Street, and later, the patriarch of Seattle's jazz scene. Photo from Grace Holden, via BlackPast.org

Oscar Holden (1887-1969). From the Grace Holden collection, via BlackPast.org

The most notable resident of 102 East Georgia was Oscar Holden, the band leader at the Patricia Cabaret, the hottest jazz venue in town at the time. By all accounts, Holden was a very skilled and talented musician, but his role in Vancouver seems to have been unfairly overshadowed and diminished by Jelly Roll Morton, one of the original jazz pioneers to come out of Storyville. In recalling his own time in Vancouver, Morton claimed to have been the bandleader at the Patricia, but all the extant evidence puts Holden in that role. In an interview with Alan Lomax, Jelly Roll pays Holden a backhanded compliment, saying he “was no hot man, but played plenty of straight clarinet.”

Oscar Holden left Vancouver for Seattle in the early 1920s and is remembered very differently there, as a pioneer and the patriarch of that city’s much larger and more viable hot jazz scene on Jackson Street. “Anything you set before him, he’s gone!” recalled a fellow Seattle musician. “He had a wonderful musical education. He was a great, great performer.” Indeed, Vancouver’s jazz history may have taken quite a different path had Holden not moved back to the States.

Oscar Holden's business card. Holden was leading the house band at the Patricia Cafe during this period, which included the likes of Jelly Roll Morton and Ada Bricktop Smith. After leaving Vancouver, Holden went on to become the pioneering patriarch of Seattle's jazz scene in the 1920s. Image from http://www.doctorjazz.co.uk/page10aa.html

Oscar Holden’s business card. From the Grace Holden collection, via DoctorJazz.co.uk

A major difference between Oscar Holden and Jelly Roll Morton is that Holden was looking to settle down in one place and raise a family. He came north from Tennessee to spare his children the grotesque racism he knew in the Jim Crow south. Jelly Roll, on the other hand, travelled incessantly and never settled down or raised a family. Aside from his musical abilities, one of Morton’s great talents was his gift for self-promotion and telling great stories in which he was the central figure. In his version of jazz age Vancouver, the Patricia Cabaret thrived under his musical stewardship and wilted at the moment of his departure, claims that are contradicted by all the other evidence. Jelly Roll also stands alone in crediting himself as the inventor of jazz.

Oscar Holden’s “Hoosier drummer,” William Hoy, also lived above the Lincoln Club. It’s unimaginable that they and other performers from the Patricia didn’t stop by the Lincoln after hours to jam, dance, gamble, and drink into the night, including George ParisAda Bricktop Smith, and Jelly Roll Morton, not to mention black entertainers passing through town, such as Bill “Bojangles” Robinson.

This is the only image I found of 102 East Georgia while the Lincoln Club was still operating. Detail from a WJ Moore panorama taken from the Sun Tower, June 1921. City of Vancouver Archives #PAN N221

This is the only image I found of 102 East Georgia while the Lincoln Club was still operating. Detail from a WJ Moore panorama taken from the Sun Tower, June 1921. City of Vancouver Archives #PAN N221

The Lincoln Club in the Press

The Lincoln Club was run by Reg Dotson, a black man born in Missouri. Dotson frequently played host to entertainers passing through town, according to reports in the Chicago Defender, an important African American newspaper in the post-WWI period. The comedy duo Green and Pugh noted in a letter to the paper that “Reginald Dotson, who owns the finest club in Vancouver, was waiting at the pier for us in his big car, and that is the way we have been treated since leaving Chicago.” Tom Clark, described by the Defender as “well known to members of the profession,” reported in 1919 that he was now living in Vancouver and that mail could reach him at 102 East Georgia. A month later, a correspondent living at 940 Main Street, noted that “Tom Clark has a neat little cafe.” L Louis Johnson wrote in and said that while visiting Vancouver in 1921, “we dined with Reggy [Dotson] at his palatial home and Oh, such a meal.” Joe Sheftell, the manager of a vaudeville act called the Creole Fashion Revue, said that “Reggie Dotson gave a banquet last night and we had everything from soup to nuts.” In 1922, ET Rogers, who worked at the Patricia Cabaret and lived at 804 Main Street, informed the Defender that “Vancouver is still on the map … The Lincoln Club is still headquarters. It is the best club on the coast.” Another 1922 Defender report noted that the “Lincoln Club gave its annual breakfast dance Easter Sunday.”

Headline in the Vancouver Daily World, 24 December 1919

Headline in the Vancouver Daily World, 24 December 1919

Vancouver’s (white) press, meanwhile, painted a picture of the Lincoln Club as nothing more than a disorderly house. The first of only two incidents that earned Dotson and his club coverage in the local papers was a police raid in December 1919. “Among the colored members four white girls were found,” reported the World. Dotson was fined $50 plus costs for keeping a gaming house and $300 for “having liquor illegally in possession” under the Prohibition Act. Thirty-nine “inmates” found there were each fined $15 plus costs. We can only imagine how the presence of white women influenced the case.

The Extortion Case

The second newsworthy incident at the Lincoln Club took place in the spring of 1923 when a man named George McLeod came in claiming to be the chief inspector of the BC Liquor Control Board. According to Reg Dotson, McLeod told him that the unsealed liquor that had previously been confiscated from the club meant that Dotson was facing a $100 fine. “We don’t like to prosecute these cases,” McLeod said, “because the city gets all the money and we do all the work. The liquor board or government don’t get the fines.” McLeod gave Dotson the option of handing over $50 cash to ensure the matter would be dropped. Dotson was skeptical that McLeod was who he claimed to be and wasn’t too keen on being shaken down. He told McLeod to come back at 8 pm and in the meantime spoke with Inspector Charles Tuley of the Vancouver Police Department.

Charles Tuley was a Vancouver Police Inspector when he helped pinch George McLeod for attempting to either extort or entrap Reg Dotson of the Lincoln Club in 1923. Photo by AJ Selset, CVA #A-30-244

Charles Tuley was the Vancouver Police Inspector who coordinated the police sting operation at the Lincoln Club that snared George McLeod, a provincial liquor inspector. McLeod attempted to extort $50 from Reg Dotson in 1923. Photo by AJ Selset, 1914 or 1915, CVA #A-30-244

Dotson assisted the police in the sting that caught McLeod. The two men met downtown in Dotson’s car and spoke again on the phone (with the police listening in) to discuss the payoff. Dotson stalled by pressing McLeod for assurances that he wouldn’t be fined anyway after handing over the cash. The final meeting was at Dotson’s “palatial home” at 102 East Georgia. Dotson answered the door in his pajamas to appear like he had just woken up. McLeod came in to complete the transaction, unaware that police were hiding in an adjacent room listening to the conversation and peeping through a keyhole. Dotson handed McLeod $50 in marked bills supplied by the police. Inspectors Tuley and Sutherland and Detective Thompson burst out and arrested McLeod. When told at the police station that he “had been a fool,” McLeod replied: “I know. I wish I hadn’t. Keep this quiet and I will quit my job and leave the country,” according to Tuley’s testimony.

The case went to court in the fall of 1923. McLeod’s defense was simple. Rather than refuting the testimony of Dotson and the police, he claimed that he did what he did to find out which clubs were paying off the police to look the other way. Dotson took the stand, followed by Tuley and Thompson, who corroborated his version of events. McLeod’s explanation won the day and he was acquitted.

Construction of the first Georgia Viaduct, looking east toward Main Street, around 1913. The big building on the right is the rear of the Avenue Theatre. The top of 102 East Georgia can be seen just below it. City of Vancouver Archives #LGN 1188 (cropped)

Looking east toward Main Street during construction of the first Georgia Viaduct around 1914. The large building is the rear of the Avenue Theatre and just below it is the top of 102 East Georgia Street. City of Vancouver Archives #LGN 1188 (cropped)

The papers don’t specify what made McLeod’s story more compelling than that of his accusers. It may have been simply the widespread belief at the time that the city police force was thoroughly corrupt. When asked in court if he had heard of payoffs being made to the police, Inspector Tuley replied: “to hear some people, every club in the city is paying for police protection.” The verdict may also have been influenced by the heightened anti-black racism in the city that followed the killing of a Victoria Cross-decorated police officer by a black man the previous fall. No doubt the cooperation between a black club owner and the police in a sting operation would have raised suspicions in many people’s minds in 1923.

The defense brought in two of McLeod’s underlings from the Liquor Control Board. One said that McLeod had mentioned his plan to entrap Dotson, but he didn’t question it because he “figured McLeod knew more about the business than he did.” Another said that part of his job was to report on the “beer club situation,” and that “the Lincoln Club was one of the worst in the city and was frequented by colored men and white girls, and he understood Mr McLeod was trying to get evidence.” The paper didn’t say what relevance the racial makeup of Lincoln Club patrons had to the case.

Before a verdict was reached, a “lady juror” was rebuked by the judge for remarking that she hoped McLeod got off because it looked like “a frame-up” to her, but her reasoning wasn’t reported. One of the officers “admitted under cross-examination that the police had been compelled to adopt certain methods, which he did not approve of, to secure convictions under the Liquor Act, and that in some instances ‘informers’ used had turned out to be rotters.”

McLeod’s lawyer grilled Dotson about the club, bringing up its history of alleged liquor violations. Dotson said that he shut the club down in October of 1922 and that since then the space was being used by black railway porters. When asked if it was operating as an illegal gambling den, he refused to answer on the grounds that he would not incriminate himself.


BC Hydro's Murrin Substation, at the southwest corner of Main and East Georgia streets, under construction in 1946. Photo by Don Coltman, City of Vancouver Archives #586-4792

BC Hydro’s Murrin Substation, at the southwest corner of Main and East Georgia streets, under construction in 1946. This is the building that still occupies the old Avenue Theatre site on Main at East Georgia Street. If you click to enlarge the image you can see that the Lincoln Club building has been replaced with what appears to be storage shacks between the two billboards. Photo by Don Coltman, CVA #586-4792

There is very little documentation of the Lincoln Club, but enough to confidently draw some conclusions about its significance. The club was popular, given the police attention it received and its six year existence. Reg Dotson’s “big car” and his ability to routinely host and impress entertainers passing through town tell us that he was more than just eking out a living from the club. Certainly he was financially far better off than if he had worked as a sleeping car porter, janitor, or the handful of other legitimate occupations open to black men at the time.

The unexplained mentions of “white girls” in newspaper reports almost certainly were intended to add to the club’s notoriety by adding race-mixing to the other so-called vices committed at the Lincoln Club. But it also tells us that the social scene there was not racially insular despite being explicitly a black club. The annual Easter Sunday breakfast dance suggests that it had a community purpose beyond just drinking and gambling. And from the various performers that lived above or passed through the club we can reasonably assume that a vibrant musical subculture made itself at home there, specifically, jazz, right at the moment when the genre was beginning to come into its own.

Vancouver’s black population was tiny at the time, but in another sense, the black culture at the Lincoln Club was indistinct from the large and sophisticated black cultural network that traversed the continent on the railway lines and entertainment circuits. In subsequent decades, the culture being incubated in thousands of small venues like the Lincoln Club would slowly become woven into mainstream popular culture, in Vancouver and around the globe.

102 East Georgia was listed as “vacant” in the 1925 directory. Reg Dotson died ten years later.

The former Shore Street strip and eastern entrance to the original Georgia Viaduct, as seen in 2005, showing the old street car tracks.

The former Shore Street strip and the only remnant of the original Georgia Viaduct, as seen in 2005. This site is currently being used as a construction staging ground for condos going up on Main Street. The Lincoln Club site is off-frame on the left, now part of the substation.