Lethbridge’s historic Bow On Tong building demolished after Tuesday fire

The remnants of Bow On Tong, a historical building in Lethbridge's Chinatown, pictured on Feb. 2, 2023. Eloise Therien / Global News

The Bow On Tong building in downtown Lethbridge is no longer standing following a structural fire early Tuesday morning.

The building was constructed in 1919, and was used as an apothecary since the mid 1920s.

According to the city, crews from four local stations and mutual aid from Coaldale responded to a report of a fire at the building around five in the morning, located at 316 2 Ave. S.

On Wednesday, officials updated the situation but said the investigation into the cause is ongoing and did not provide a damage estimate.

“​The fire investigation at the Bow on Tong building will continue today with a delicate process due to the structural instability of building as well as its status with provincial and municipal designation with the Alberta Register of Historic Places,” a news release read.

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As of Thursday, the portion of 2 Ave. remained closed to public traffic, and the building was no longer standing. Crews could be seen using machinery to remove debris from the now-empty lot.

Belinda Crowson, president of the Lethbridge Historical Society, described the blaze as a “devastating loss” and said the records and pictures of the building aren’t the same as having actual building.

“This is very detrimental to our knowledge of the Chinese community and our ability to share that history and to tell that story because the building stood as tangible representation of that history,” she explained.

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“Good news is (it looks like) the building beside it is still standing,” Crowson said, adding that building was built in 1908.

Not much of Chinatown is left in Lethbridge.

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“I know that when they were going to take down the (Bow On Tong) building — which was a sad decision to have to make — they were going to try to rescue as much as they can, signage and things like that.

“So hopefully pieces of that building will live on in some way.”

Further updates will not be available until LFES Fire Investigators have completed the investigation.

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