The little sign advertising the Sun Ah Hotel on the southeast corner of East Pender and Columbia is one of Michelle Sproule’s neighbourhood favourites. For several decades (and as long as I can remember) it has advertised the 48 tiny rooms in the four storeys above the now closed Foo’s Ho Ho Restaurant, originally lodgings for working class Chinese men. It is recognized by the Canadian Register of Historic Places as one of the property’s “character-defining elements”.
By taking so many photographs of the sign over the past 20 years, Sproule has accidentally chronicled its slow destruction. As you can see in her Instagram post and in the images arranged below, it has been slowly sullied and defaced, its clean red and gold letters on green background swallowed up by graffiti – inch by inch, letter by letter, word by word – until today, when it is completely painted over. To be sure, far greater tragedies unfold every day in this neighbourhood, but that doesn’t make the needlessness of this one hurt any less.