Vancouver - British Columbia - CANADA

Sam Kee Building - 1913

Ripley's Believe It or Not - World's thinnest building

Guinness World Record - Shallowest commercial building in the world

The Sam Kee building is situated at 8 West Pender Street. It runs from the corner of Pender and Carral to the lane at the halfway point of the block. It is two storeys tall and 1.5 meters (six feet) deep.

The story behind the building is as exotic as the structure with several intriguing twists and turns included in its telling.

The City of Vancouver provided the original owner, Chang Toy, with a challenge when it expropriated all but two meters of his property as part of an expansion of Pender Street. No compensation was provided to its owner who was left with what most believed to be a useless property. In a creative turn of events fuelled by spite and some say a bet an architect was hired to design a building to fit the remaining property. The rest is history in more ways than one.

This building was home to 13 businesses at one time. It was the only place in Chinatown for residents to enjoy hot baths. There is a tunnel beneath the building that was used as an escape route from raids on Opium dens situated on neighbouring Shanghai Alley. The building is also fronted by the only remaining glass sidewalk in Chinatown.

As part of the ongoing history of this structure, issues still arise between the owners and the city with respect to encroachment and overhangs. In spite of each side having an element of right it seems to boil down to the proverbial "tit for tat". It makes for an interesting study in civics.

Photographer: Maurice Jassak
Web page design: Maurice Jassak
Images West Marketing