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.
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.
Hogan’s Alley was most likely named for Harry Hogan, a black singer who lived at 406 Union Street in 1921. When the Georgia Viaduct plowed through Vancouver in 1972, it knocked out Hogan’s Alley and with it a lot of black history.
From 1938 to 1952, Nora Hendrix, the grandmother of rock legend Jimi Hendrix, lived a few blocks from Hogan’s Alley at 827 East Georgia Street. Born in Tennesse, Nora 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, Married Lucille, 16, and Jimi was born in 1942.
Jimi was a frequent visitor to his grandmother’s house. He often picked up some cash sitting in with a group at a club known as Dante’s Inferno. 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. From about 1948 to 1979 the building next to it (now a parking lot) housed Vie’s Chicken and Steak House, where Nora worked and Jimi rehearsed. It was apparently a Hogan’s Alley fixture and a favourite for visiting black performers such as Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole.
Eve Lazarus is a writer with a passion for history and heritage houses. She is the author of At Home with History: the secrets of Greater Vancouver’s Heritage Houses and blogs obsessively about buildings and their genealogies at www.blog.evelazarus.com. Her latest book Sensational Victoria: bright lights, red lights, murders, ghosts & gardens launched December 2012.