The Chinese in Early 20th Century Toronto:100 Elm Street

In Valerie Mah’s thesis paper The “Bachelor” Society, Samuel Wing is listed as having lived at 100 Elm Street in the early 1900s. This fact is corroborated by both the City of Toronto Directories and the Toronto Archive’s Assessment Rolls. According to the Goad’s Insurance Plans of 1899 and 1903, the building at 100 Elm Street was made of wood and situated directly across from the Poor House. In the City Directories of 1900 and 1901, Wing is listed as running a laundry business from 100 Elm St. Wing is listed as a tenant while the actual owner of the building was Samuel Jardiene of the Home Savings and Loan Company. Jardiene was most likely a mortgage holder of some sort. Wing lived alone, with no listed tenants, no listed family and no listed children.

In 2014, the building has been torn down and fused with many other lots to form Sick Kids Hospital.


Works Cited

Assessment Roll 1900: Ward 3 Division 2; City of Toronto Archives

Goad Fire Insurance Map (1899 & 1903); City of Toronto Archives Website.

Mah, Valerie.  The “Bachelor” Society. A Look at Toronto’s Early Chinese Community from 1878 – 1924 (unpublished, 1978).

Toronto City Directory, 1900 & 1901; City of Toronto Archives.


The Chinese in Early 20th Century Toronto: 90 Dundas West

Lee Hing was listed as a Chinese migrant residing in Toronto in a July 1900 letter to Rev. MacKay of the United Church. Between 1899 – 1901, Hing was listed as the only renter at Woods L Butcher at 90 Dundas West (now 3142 Dundas West). Hing may have worked at one of the Chinese business in the area, such as a nearby Chinese-run hardware store or a Chinese laundromat. Old 90 Dundas West was almost directly across from St. John Church.




Might Directories, Limited. Toroto City Directory 1899. Toronto, 1900. Print.

Might Directories, Limited. Toroto City Directory 1900. Toronto, 1901. Print.

Might Directories, Limited. Toroto City Directory 1901. Toronto, 1902. Print.

The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation, Town of Toronto Junction assessment roll – 1899, Toronto. 1900.  Print.

The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation, Town of Toronto Junction assessment roll – 1900, Toronto. 1901. Print.

The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation, Town of Toronto Junction assessment roll – 1901, Toronto. 1902. Print.

The Chinese in Early 20th Century Toronto: 447 Queen St. West

Mark Sing was an early migrant to Canada from China and is listed as being at 447 Queen St. West in a July 1900 letter to Rev. MacKay of the United Church. Sing probably hoped to earn some money in Canada to send back to his family. To accomplish this goal he opened a laundromat, called the Sing Mark Laundry, which was in business in the year 1899.  The following year, a man identified as Charlie Hing bought that property and moved his own laundry, the Hing C Laundry, from 229 Queen St West to 447 Queen St West. The location then became Hing C laundry from 1900 onwards. Currently, there is a TD bank at this address.




Might Directories, Limited. Toroto City Directory 1899. Toronto, 1900. Print.

Might Directories, Limited. Toroto City Directory 1900. Toronto, 1901. Print.

Might Directories, Limited. Toroto City Directory 1901. Toronto, 1902. Print.

The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation, Assessment roll, Toronto, ward 6, division 2 – 1901, Toronto. 1902. Print.

The Chinese in Early 20th Century Toronto: 281 Church Street – Private Grounds

According to a letter to Rev. Mackay (July 25, 1900) of the United Church noted in Valerie Mah’s  independent research paper “The Bachelor Society”,  a Chinese man named Charlie Lee either had a business or was living at 281 Church Street. The Goad’s Fire Insurance Plan Map indicates that the property at 281 Church Street was built sometime between 1884 and 1890. Goad’s Fire Insurance Plan Map depicts the property in brown which indicates that it is was a brick building.  The Toronto City Directories for 1899 show a man by the name of Charles J. Taber, a butcher, living at the property. The property was considered to be private grounds. The following year in 1900 it was indicated to be vacant, and in 1901 the address was no longer listed within the directory. Looking through the Assessment Rolls, the only assessment roll available for the address 281 Church Street was in 1899. The information was quite consistent with the information from the directory, however the name was recorded as Tabor, Arthur J. instead of Tabor, Charlie J. Due to the fact that this person only lived at the address for a short period of time and it was accounted for as private grounds, it can be deduced that the person living there did not run any kind of business and even if he did, it would have been a private shop that was available to a few people. In 2014, the property where 281 Church Street was located is now a part of Ryerson University. The George Vari Engineering building is located at that site.

281 Church Street (2014)


Works Cited

– Assessment rolls (1899) Roll#7332; Toronto Archives

– Toronto Directory (1899, 1900, 1901); Toronto Archives

– Goads Fire Insurance Plan (1899); Toronto Archives Website

– Mah, Valerie.  The “Bachelor” Society. A Look at Toronto’s Early Chinese Community from 1878 – 1924 (unpublished, 1978).



The Chinese in Early 20th Century Toronto: 282 Adelaide Street West (Toronto, ONT.)

282 Adelaide Street West
Ward 4, Division 1
Occupants: Chung Lee and Two others
Occupation of Occupants and Building Economic Use: Laundry
Owner of Building: Michael Ryan
Address Size: 13×80
Address Build: Wood
Rate: 35
Value of Land: 455 (Built on)
Value of Improvements: 250
Value of Real Property: 705
Total Value of Personal, Real Property, and Taxable Income: 705
Religion of Occupants: Christian

282 Adelaide Street West (1899-1901/ Section 5)Goads Fire Insurance Map Plate 1 (1899/ Section 5)

*All above information was retrieved from the City of Toronto Archives (“City of Toronto Street Directory 1901,” “City of Toronto Assessment Rolls: Ward 4, Division 1, Entry #40103”)

282 Adelaide Street West Present Day (2014)

282 Adelaide Street West Present Day (2014)

The Chinese in Early 20th Century Toronto: Back of 801 Bathurst Street – Chong Sing’s Laundry









Shop researched by: Phoenix Simms

According to Valerie Mah’s thesis, “The ‘Bachelor’ Society,” Chong Sing and 1 other Chinese person lived at 807 Bathurst Street around 1900. As it turns out, after digging through the assessment rolls for 1900-1902, Chong Sing was found to actually live in the back of lot 556 on Bathurst Street, also listed as “801- back.” For the first assessment roll that Chong Sing is listed (1899 prepared for tax year 1900), there is also a clerical error regarding his name. On this roll he is recorded as “Chong Chong” (Reel 143) but all the other information lines up with the Toronto City Directories for the same years. 801 Bathurst is not listed in 1899 of the city directories (Reel 44). All subsequent assessment rolls (Reels 143, 149, and 156) list his name properly.

On the Toronto City Directories microfilm reels for 1899 to 1902 Chong Sing is listed as living at 801 Bathurst and his business is a laundry. Lot 556 or 801-back and several lots heading up on the same side of the street were owned by “Land Security Company” (Reels 143, 149, and 156). It was difficult to determine whether there was another Chinese person living at the address with Chong Sing as the assessment rolls only listed his name as a tenant. There were no other notes indicating that there was another Chinese person living there, but since lot 556, also known as 801 Bathurst, was a split lot, with Chong Sing living in the back of the lot, it is possible that whoever lived in the other half of the lot was another Chinese tenant. It is not likely though, since the front of 556 was probably where the owner of the other lots on that street lived.

Chong Sing appears to have been a Chinese bachelor, judging from his age — 26 years old —  in the assessment roll for 1900, coinciding with the year he first was recorded in the Toronto Street Directories, 1900.  His education is listed as “P” (Reels 143, 149, and 156), but according to the archivist he might have been listed as such because the owner of his building had public education and listed all tenants in his lots as having public education. Mah’s thesis states that “During the late nineteenth century agents from Hong Kong went from village to village in South China to recruit laborers for shipment from Hong Kong to Canada and other countries. They left for speculation as well as the fact that the land had been left devastated after the Tai Ping Revolution” (3). 1900, the year Chong Sing is first listed in the Toronto city directories was also the height of the Boxer Revolution and it is possible that that was another factor in Chong Sing’s migration to Canada (Harry Con et al, 75). A third possible reason for Chong Sing’s migration was that he was a sojourner Chinese immigrant who was to work in Canada until he gained enough income to go back to China and bring back a son or nephew. This was apparently more common after 1900 (5). At that time, China’s daily wages were only seven cents a day, so the prospect of working for a dollar a day in Canada was another big pull for bachelors like Chong Sing to immigrate to Canada during the turbulent late nineteenth century to early twentieth century period (5).

The laundry Chong Sing ran appears to have been successful, as assessment rolls 1900 and 1902 show his taxable income as $800 and $600, respectively. This is quite significant, as Mah describes that these early laundries needed “$500-600 and/or up to $2,000 capital…Financing could be done through the credit system of the Tong” (23). This means Chong Sing was able to make back what he owed to start his business, plus $200 dollars over that amount within his first year of opening his laundry!

Here are a few facts that will illustrate a little of what running a laundry was like during the exclusion era of Canada. All clothes were washed by hand using a washing machine that was essentially “a huge cylinder made of wood and later metal. It had a forward and backward rolling motion like two huge cylinders, one within the other” (23). The process of using this machine was complex and the laundrymen hung all the washing on drying lines inside on each side of the room (23). They washed everything: from clothes to sheets to curtains, but since laundries made small capital, they left the linens for big hotels to take care of (24). The hours for a laundry were typically “twelve hours a day and often on Sunday” (25), although it is cited in Mah’s thesis that families would take Sundays off sometimes to go to Church where it was possible to learn English (25). A popular pastime of the sojourner bachelors of Chinatowns in this period was gambling. Gambling offered a chance to socialize with one’s community, but also for the opportunity to gain a bit more money, especially for those men who are homeless. “The men [would] gather in tiny parlours hidden behind laundries, shops or restaurants or in rooms below the level of the street” to play pan tan, pai kop piu, gee fah or mah jong (61).

Today, the back of 801 Bathurst is just an alleyway between a CIBC and wholesale textiles shop. It was difficult to find any photos of the exact address from the era Chong Sing immigrated to Canada, but to give an idea of what the intersection Chong Sing lived near (Bathurst and Bloor Street West) looked like, take a look at the black and white photo attached to this article.

Works Cited:

Assessment Roll: Ward 4 Division 3 1900 (1899 for tax year 1900), Reel 143

Assessment Roll: Ward 4 Division 3 1901 (1900 for tax year 1901), Reel 149

Assessment Roll: Ward 4 Division 3 1902 (1901 for tax year 1902), Reel 156

Con, Harry et al. From China to Canada: A History of the Chinese Communities in Canada. Toronto: Mclelland and Stewert Ltd., 1982. Print.

Mah, Valerie. The bachelor society: a look at Toronto’s early Chinese community from     1878-1924. MA Thesis. 1978. Print.

Bloor and Bathurst Sts., track laying. April 3, 1911. City of Toronto Archives, Toronto. Print.

Toronto: Might’s Directory Co. 1899. Microform. the Toronto city directory for 1899. Location     264730-44, Reel 44.

Toronto: Might’s Directory Co. 1899. Microform. the Toronto city directory for 1900: Vol. XXV.     Location no. 2643730-45, Reel 45.

Toronto: Might’s Directory Co. 1901. Microform. the Toronto city directory for 1901: Vol. XVII.     Location no. 2643730-47, Reel 47.

Toronto: Might’s Directory Co. 1902. Microform. the Toronto city directory for 1902: Vol. XXVII.
Location no. 2643730-48, Reel 48.

New York Restaurant (Cafe)

The New York Café was opened 1930 by Lor Leip and his wife Agnes.

The restaurant, located in downtown Brockville, Ontario, had about 88 seats and 24 tables. The kitchen was (and is probably still) the largest kitchen for the size of restaurant between Montréal and Toronto — it not only had dish washing facilities, stoves, ovens and woks but also a full walk-in 12 x 12 foot refrigerator to store food. In the basement there were full laundry facilities, a repair shop, a walk-in freezer, furnace, walk-in refrigerators, 6 compressors serving all the cooling units and also storage areas for the non perishable foods.


When the New York Café opened, it was the only restaurant between Montréal and Toronto that had white linen on their tables. During the 1950’s and 60’s it employed between 45 – 50 full and part-time staff. When it opened, the menu was targeted to the tastes of the residents of Brockville and the surrounding area. It included items such as locally caught Sturgeon Steak, Grilled Perch, Poached East Coast Salmon,Bear Steak, Halibut Steak, Fresh Malpeque Oysters, Live Lobsters from Canada’s East Coast, Frogs Legs from Eastern Ontario, Roast Beef, Winnipeg Goldeye and locally grown fresh vegetables. In the early 1940’s Chinese food, such as Chicken Chop Suey, Sweet and Sour Spareribs, Chow Mein Buns and Egg Rolls, were introduced. These items became a big hit with the local diners. During World War II, the New York Café became the only restaurant in Brockville that officers in training at the training facilities in Brockville were allowed to visit.


In the late 1950’s Lor Leip, passed away and the restaurant was taken over by his wife Agnes.  At that time, Agnes formed a new company called the New York Restaurant with her son, Joe Lor, as the Vice President and daughter, Valerie Mah, as the Secretary Treasurer. During this period, changes were made to the signage for the restaurant as well as its layout. A new Dragon Room was added which meant that the restaurant now had the capacity to seat 121 patrons. Changes in the liquor laws also meant that beer, wine, cocktails and liquor were now available for customers.


Throughout the 1950s, customers continued to visit the restaurant from locations all across Eastern Ontario and Northern New York State. Line-ups to enter the restaurant on weekends and holidays were predicatble. Notable persons who have eaten at the New York Restaurant include US Vice President Walter Mondale, Mayor Robert Saunders from Toronto Wrestler Whipper Billy Watson, Author Pierre Burton and hokcely players Bobby Hull and Wayne Gretsky.

Success Grocery

My parents’ shop was called Success Grocery. It was located at Sutton St. and Rum Lane. It was your typical, modest shop. They sold the usual everyday groceries – flour, margarine, oil, sugar, salt, and canned goods. They also sold haberdashery items like men’s undershirts, hankerchiefs, and socks. Attached to the shop was a stock room. One of the naughty things we did as children was to spy on my father at Christmas as he hid our presents in the stock room. Every year, we would buy us a new toy and a small box of chocolates. At some point, he would take the gifts into the stock room to hide them. Our family slept on the second floor. Our bedroom was right above the stock room. The wood floor had cracks in it where you could see right through. We would take turns lying down on the floor with our eye clued to the crevice waiting for my father to make his move. Invariably, he’d come in and hide the toys and chocolate. This was one of the ways, my brothers and I would keep ourselves entertained. We did help out in the shop. Sometimes, at the end of the night, we would have to sweep up the open area where customers would wait to be served. We used a broom and a home-made dust pan made out of an empty large, square, oil can cut on the diagonal and then nailed to a piece of board. As a child, the area that we had to sweep felt enormous, but it was probably less than ten square feet. I remembered having this sense of responsibility to get this done for my father because he was always working in the shop. I certainly grew up with the feeling that they sacrificed a great deal for us.