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