Hastings Mill and the Flying Angels Club House

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Kathryn Murray’s association with the Mission to Seafarers goes back to 1902—the same year the Flying Angels Club came to Vancouver. Kathyrn’s great grandmother Florence Sentell was bringing a fruit basket to the Mission when she met Charles Westrand, Kathryn’s great grandfather.

Flying Angels Club
Mission to Seafarers at the foot of Dunlevy. Eve Lazarus photo, 2016

The Mission which still provides assistance and care to seaman from over 90 countries, has been housed in a heritage building at the foot of Dunlevy for almost half-a-century. The Mission owns the house while the Port of Vancouver owns the land and leases it back for $1 a year.

Sixteen years ago the Mission was easily accessible and surrounded by gardens that led to the waterfront. Post 9/11 madness, the Port is wrapped in a chain link of security which has marooned the house in a kind of cul-de-sac. It shows in the numbers. Before the security fences shot up, about 24,000 seafarers visited the Mission every year. Last year only 3,500 visited.

The Mission house post 9/11, To get there you have to take the Main Street overpass, and go along East Waterfront.
The Mission house post 9/11, To get there you have to take the Main Street overpass, and go along East Waterfront.

Kathryn thinks part of the problem is that people have forgotten about them. The other problem is the Internet. They are literally at the end of the line and get whatever the Port doesn’t use.

“The guys come and just can’t get proper Internet and that’s really something that’s required when they only have an hour or two and they really need to talk to people back home.”

The Flying Angels Club
The vault, shown in the 1906 plans became a fall-out shelter during the Cold War. Eve Lazarus photo, 2016

It would cost $20,000 to get a better connection.

And the Internet is huge for men who may be in town for just a few hours. Kathryn, who manages this location and another at Roberts Bank—has watched a seafarer attend his mother’s funeral through Skype, another watched his son take his first steps, and she saw one man pick up a teddy from the gift store to teach his child the A, B, C’s. She says, the men who visit—and it’s almost all men, call her “Mother.”

Up to 80% of visiting seafarers are Filipino and they are deeply religious. Their spiritual needs are administered to in the chapel by either a Priest or an Anglican cleric. Eve Lazarus photo, 2016.
Up to 80% of visiting seafarers are Filipino and they are deeply religious. Their spiritual needs are administered to in the chapel by either a Priest or an Anglican cleric. Eve Lazarus photo, 2016.

House is threatened

The Mission is about to lose even more of its garden as the Port’s activities expand (think First Order). In the long term, the fate of the house is threatened, and this is tragic because the building and its location are an essential part of Vancouver’s history.

First Nations call the site Kumkumalay meaning “big maple trees.” It was the site of the Hastings Saw Mill and the old mill store and the first public school. The homeless set up camp here during the worst of the Depression. Hastings Mill was a significant employer of Japanese Canadians which led to Japantown.

VPL 2757 taken in 1932. Leonard Frank photo
VPL 2757 taken in 1932. Leonard Frank photo

The Mission’s house was built by BC Mills Timber and Trading Co. in 1906 as the offices for sales of pre-fabricated houses, schools and churches. The building was a showplace with each office paneled in a different type of wood—fir, hemlock, red cedar and balsam—and painted over when the Vancouver Harbour Commissioners moved in. The National Harbours Board were next to own the house, and the Mission took possession in the early 1970s.

Next time you’re in the area, visit the house while you still can. Maybe bring some books and games or clothes that you no longer need. Kathryn and her visiting Seafarer’s will be most grateful.

Eve Lazarus photo, 2016
Eve Lazarus photo, 2016

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

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7 comments

  1. Any hope of doing something to either get internet set up properly and save this building?
    Love your blog, my parents moved to Vancouver in 1933 from Winnipeg. They never went back. I grew up with an appreciation of history and heritage. I lived in New Westminster for 49 years and we lived in and renovated 3 heritage houses in Queens Park. Now live in the grasslands of the interior but still very interested in Vancouver heritage.

    1. Thanks so much for dropping by Melodie, thanks for the kind words about my blog! You must be happy to see New West is trying to get a heritage revitalization for the Queens Park area underway. As far as the Internet, the Mission just doesn’t have the money to pay for an extension to the pipe–Telus estimate about $20,000, so they are essentially stuck with an antiquated dial-up system.

  2. As much as I love New West and the people, they are slow! They have been revitalizing Queens Park for the last 50 years. Let me give this problem some thought. My 25 working years at the coast I specialized in sales and marketing, when I came to the Kamloops area I did resource development for the United Way. I know about grant writing and fundraising. Telus has the capacity to do it for nothing. Is the mission a registered nonprofit? Even the Filipino community could help. What about Shaw? Has anyone investigated this already so I am not duplicating?
    Melodie

  3. The Port of Vancouver is not user friendly at all. They do very little (other than ads) to be good corporate citizens.
    Perhaps the Arab owners of Centerm (Dubai Ports) would like to help out the mision as they are the closest port operator to the mission.

  4. This can not be allowed to happen!
    Also, because it is so difficult to access, more outreach is needed to bring those who need the services to this mission.
    I highly recommend getting MP Jennie Kwan and MLA Melanie Marks on board.

  5. What a wonderful article! Thank you and what a lovely tribute to Kathryn! And the facts you state are correct, less seafarers. And yes a lot of not so good things are happening around the house. It’s sad. And I’m not afraid to be called on and saying it. I was born in Vancouver, with Japanese grandparent who went and ddied in interment camp. I’m eastender to the bone. Please let me know if I can do anything to keep this house there. Not much money but I can talk!

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