Black History Month: Hogan’s Alley and the Jimi Hendrix Connection

by Eve Lazarus on February 10, 2013

It may be long gone, but at least Hogan’s Alley is finally getting the recognition that it deserves. As part of the Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s Places that Matter program, a plaque will be placed near the Hogan’s Alley Cafe at Gore and Union Streets at 2:00 Sunday February 24.

Once a black hang-out for after-hours clubs, gambling and bootlegging

Hogan’s Alley, Vancouver 1958

The plaque and ceremony is part of the Hogan’s Alley Memorial Project, part Black History Month, and part B.C. Heritage Week.

When the Georgia Viaduct plowed through Vancouver in 1972, it knocked out Hogan’s Alley and with it a lot of black history. At one time Hogan’s Alley was a hang-out and home for Vancouver’s black community and filled with after-hours clubs, gambling and bootlegging joints. Just eight feet wide and a few blocks long, the Alley was really just a collection of horse stables, small cottages and shacks—a place where the west side crowd came to take a walk on the wild side.

Nora Hendrix lived in this Strathcona house from 1938 to 1952

827 East Georgia Street

I’ve written about Nora Hendrix and her Vancouver connection in At Home with History. From 1938 to 1952, the grandmother of rock legend Jimi Hendrix, lived a few blocks from Hogan’s Alley. Nora, a feisty old lady who turned 100 in Vancouver, was born in Tennessee. She was a dancer in a vaudeville troupe, married Ross Hendrix and settled in Vancouver in 1911, raising three children. Al, the youngest moved to Seattle at 22, met 16-year-old Lucille, and their son Jimi was born in 1942.

Jimi was a frequent visitor to his grandmother’s house. After he left the army in 1962 he hitchhiked 2,000 miles to Vancouver and stayed several weeks. He picked up some cash sitting in with a group at a club known as Dante’s Inferno. Six years later when the Jimi Hendrix Experience played the Pacific Coliseum, Nora was in the audience.

A couple of years ago, Hendrix fans converted a small red brick building at 207 Union Street into a shrine for the singer. Current owner of the site Vince Fodera has refused to sell to developers unless they agree to incorporate the shrine into a new building. Vince told me that the site was part of the famous Vie’s Chicken and Steak House (now a parking lot) that at one time or another hosted Hendrix, Nat King Cole and Louis Armstrong. “I spent three years renovating the place and I heard all kinds of stories for people that this was the spot where Jimi spent a lot of time,” he said.

Next to the former Vie's Chicken House

Photo by James Gogan

© All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all blog content copyright Eve Lazarus.

 

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Val Jacober March 3, 2013 at 7:52 pm

Thanks for this. I was there last Sunday too and shared my photos on FB. It was a long past due recognition of this long gone African Canadian neighbourhood. I missed it altogether, as I moved to the Lower Mainland in 1978.

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Eve Lazarus March 4, 2013 at 6:51 am

I’m sorry I missed it. So glad that it finally got recognition. Eve

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neal March 10, 2013 at 11:01 am

Wasn’t it the Dunsmuir Viacduct that connected Prior st in 1972?
The Georgia Street viaduct had been there since 1915 and was originally built to go over False Creek and the train yards underneath, now but a fading memory.
The Georgia Viaduct was originally a two-way link to downtown Vancouver. I recall it had a huge water tower south of it, which was probably torn down in the late ’50s or early ’60s. The water towr, I believe, was used to refill the old locomotive steam engines.
I was friends with a guy who went to our high school — one of the few black kids at our school — whose mother worked at Vi’s Chicken & Steaks on Union (where the Jimi Hendrix memorial is now); his grandmother owned the place. I believe she was also the grandmother of Jimi Hendrix, who came to live in Vancouver with his grandma for a time. Back then, Jimi called himself Jimi Jones and was trying to get a steady gig playing guitar.

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Kelly April 20, 2013 at 3:00 pm

I stumbled across your blog while I was looking for some information on old beer labels, that my Grandfather happened to have left me. Then decided to look up the Wigwam Inn that I have not seen since the 1970′s when the “Hippies” had trashed it LOL and here I am. Wonderful! I lived on Pacific Ave in 1981 when the Englesea burned down and I cannot tell you how many people I have tried to convince over the years that there was at one time buildings on the beach side and that the Englesea was one of them. Thank you very much for some very interesting articles, I will keep reading! Now I am curious about the house on Harris road as well, my Aunt and cousins had a small farm there in the 60′s 70′s.

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Eve Lazarus April 20, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Hi Kelly, I think old beer labels is about the only thing I haven’t written about (unless they’re on someone’s ceiling). Glad you like my blog, thanks for taking the time to comment. Eve

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