The City of Vancouver that pioneering property magnate Jonathan Rogers helped build was very different from the multi-cultural Canadian metropolis of today, with its soaring property market dominated by rich Chinese buyers. And Rogers would not have approved. An 86-year-old covenant that Rogers attached to the sale of one of his many properties has revealed that he tried to ban any “Chinese, Japanese or other Asiatic” from ever owning or living on the site. The home, which Rogers sold to housewife Fannie Smith for C$775 in 1928, is back on the market for C$2.548 million (HK$17.99 million). Two offers have been made in the past month - ironically, from a mainland Chinese immigrant and a local family of Taiwanese origin. The old document, provided to the South China Morning Post by real estate agent Wayne Hamill, casts a light on a time when Chinese immigration to Canada had been almost totally banned. Covenants such as that uncovered by Hamill, the selling agent for the home in the prosperous South Granville neighbourhood, were not uncommon at the time, he said. The covenant requires that the buyer, “or his heirs, administrators, executors, successors, or [illegible], will not sell to, agree to sell to, rent to, lease to or permit or allow to occupy the said lands and premises, or any part thereof, any person of the Chinese, Japanese or other Asiatic race or to any Indian or Negro”. Such covenants, designed to protect Vancouver’s white identity, were then completely legal but have long since been rendered invalid by anti-discrimination laws. Addendums noting their invalidity are added by the BC Land Title and Survey Authority whenever they are noticed, but because such documents have not been digitised, it is impossible to simply modify them en masse. “What would normally happen is that a lawyer at some point would have caught this restrictive covenant, and although the covenant can’t actually come off the property, you would add an addendum, rendering it non-effective, non-binding,” said Hamill. “But you can’t just black it out.” Hamill said he noticed the covenant when he pulled the property’s title in August. The current owners had no idea that the racist restriction existed. The invalidating addendum has since been put on the title. The existence of the racist covenant on the property was reported by the CBC last month, but the illustrious identity of the seller who imposed it was not noted. Hamill said he thought that the 1928 seller was the tycoon of Rogers Sugar fame, but that man, Ben Rogers, is not connected to Jonathan Rogers, a millionaire mogul in his own right, and one of the most prominent figures in Vancouver’s early history. Jonathan Rogers, a Welsh immigrant who arrived in Vancouver in 1887, made a fortune out of property speculation and construction. Although the covenant simply lists his occupation as “builder”, he was the city’s first great property baron. The 10-storey Rogers Building he constructed downtown in 1911 at a reported cost of C$600,000 was the grandest structure the city had ever seen. When he sold it in 1927 for more than C$1 million, it was the city’s most expensive property transaction to date, according to the Vancouver History website; Rogers bought it back in 1940. The 1928 covenant lists the sellers’ address as 470 Granville Street, where the Rogers Building still stands today. Rogers, who died in 1945, was also prominent in city politics, serving as an alderman and as the longtime chairman of the parks board. A downtown park is named in his honour. Hamill said he expected the house, built on the site 21 years ago, to eventually sell to an Asian buyer. “The calls I get from buyers or their agents are overwhelmingly Asian people. Most of them are from mainland China – they are the market on the Westside [of Vancouver].” He said that when he explained the existence of the covenant to the local family of Taiwanese origin who were trying to buy the home “there was a bit of a chuckle, but they signed the offer”. Both offers received on the home so far have fallen through because the buyers were unable to obtain financing. Hamill said he wasn’t worried that the covenant might put anyone off. “It’s just one of those things, a different time and period,” he said. “I don’t think there is a buyer out there who wouldn’t buy a home because it had one of those things on it.” The Hongcouver blog is devoted to the hybrid culture of its namesake cities: Hong Kong and Vancouver. All story ideas and comments are welcome. Connect with me by email email@example.com or on Twitter, @ianjamesyoung70 .