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Armstrong; Lee Bak Bong Building

The once remains of one of BC's historic Chinatowns, the Lee Bak Bong Building in Armstrong, British Columbia.

Because of a dispute between the Shuswap & Okanagan Railway and a landowner a mile to the north, Armstrong became established on the "Island," the sandbank in the middle distance with swamps and sloughs on both sides. The railway line and the town's main buildings were established on this high ground along today's Pleasant Valley Road. Once the swamps in the foreground and on the far side of the "Island" were drained, Chinese farmers took them over, turning the flats into neatly cultivated vegetable fields and earning Armstrong its nickname Celery City. The dark brown wooden cabins along the road (Okanagan Street) midway across the flats, painted in January 2004, are the last survivors of a group that provided accommodation during the growing season for the field workers.

In the wintertime, the workers lived in a bunkhouse arrangement on the upper floor of the Lee Bak Bong Building which stands, together with another similar but altered one, on Okanagan Street on the edge of the flats on the far side of the "Island." The main floor was a grocery store and vegetable distribution centre. Built by Mah Yick using the last of the output from the Armstrong brickyard, the building was erected in 1922 following a fire that destroyed much of the original Chinatown. The painted sign of the Kwong Wing On & Co., which rented the building from Mah Yick for a few years until the Lee family bought it, is still faintly visible on the brick facade. After living in Victoria for a few years, Lee Bak Bong returned to China in 1910 to marry, then moved to Armstrong; 10 years later, he was able to pay the $500 head tax to get his wife into Canada, and because of the passage of the Chinese Immigration Act in 1923 Mrs. Lee was for decades the only Chinese woman in Armstrong. Their vegetable wholesale operation was called Wing Quong & Co., after the two eldest sons of the Lee family. The survivors of the Lees' seven sons and four daughters, including Ben Lee of Kelowna, now own the building which has been vacant for nearly 30 years. The flats have grown up in sedge and weeds.

[Cited: Vanishing BC ]


A good photograph has a direct simplicity without recourse to dazzling technique." ~Isra'elis Bidermanas

Categories & Keywords
Category:Travel and Places
Subcategory:North America
Subcategory Detail:Canada
Keywords:17-Nov-08, 2008, Armstrong, Armstrong; Lee Bak Bong Building, British Columbia, Canada, Lee Bak Bong Building, RDNO, Regional District of North Okanagan

Armstrong; Lee Bak Bong Building