The Oppenheimer neighbourhood is often identified by the park of the same name, and is sometimes referred to as the heart of the Downtown Eastside. The area has been home to numerous immigrant groups over the past 120 years. Its most notable early association is with the social, economic and cultural activities of the Japanese-Canadian community from the 1890s to 1942.
Through the 1890s, the area experienced rapid development of housing for both wealthy and labourers alike. By the end of the decade, however, the wealthy had relocated to the West End and Fairview Slopes, leaving the Powell area distinctly working class. The extension of the street car line on Powell Street in 1890 also spurred commercial development – initially in the 200 and 400 blocks – transforming these from houses to commercial and hotel/boarding house uses.
Sawmills were the dominant local industry. Stamps Mill, located at the foot of Gore Avenue, was established in 1865 by Captain Edward Stamp. The mill was unable to make a profit and was ultimately sold to Captain James A. Raymur from San Francisco. Under his ownership, it became known as Hastings Mill. It employed a large number of Chinese immigrants who had previously worked on the railway. In the late 1800s the first Canadians of Japanese descent settled in the neighbourhood, many who worked at Hastings Mill. The area quickly became known as Hastings Mill.
In more recent times, the neighbourhood has become a focus of cultural activities for a diverse number of groups, including First Nations, and it retains its working-class roots. Some of the earliest housing stock in the city remains along Alexander and Cordova Street.
Today, the Oppenheimer area includes a provincial court house, police station and fire hall that serve the neighbouring communities. The neighbourhood centre of Powell Street includes retail, restaurants, cafes, grocery, live theatre and artists’ studios, social service centres and some light industrial activities.
Source: City of Vancouver