June 22nd, 2024

Historic Bow On Tong building ravaged by fire

By Lethbridge Herald on January 31, 2023.

Herald photo by Al Beeber Fire crews work on equipment after a fire at the historic Bow On Tong Co. building was extinguished early Tuesday morning downtown.

Ry Clarke – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A fire in downtown Lethbridge early Tuesday morning has left the historic Bow On Tong Building heavily scarred.

At around 5 a.m. Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services responded to a structure fire at 316 2 Ave S, with crews from four city stations as well as from Coaldale Fire Rescue. 

According to the City, no injuries were reported at the vacant building. A damage estimate was not available at press-time. 

Traffic was closed off on the block of 2 Ave and 4 St, while crews worked to stop the fire. The cause of the blaze is under investigation.

No information was available at press-time about structural damage to the building or neighbouring buildings.

Lethbridge’s Bow on Tong Co. Building was constructed back in 1919, and designated a municipal and provincial historic resource in 2014.Until July, 2021, it was still occupied by one of the original residents, Albert Leong, whose family started the business. 

“That’s the one good thing about this Chinatown – it was a place for these Chinese people to be, and still not be alone,” said Leong in an interview with the Herald in 2021. “In the early days when Chinese people first came to town to Lethbridge, they were only allowed if they wanted to open a business to have it on First or Second Avenue.”

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pursuit diver

This is very disappointing and tragic, but thankfully Albert survived. I remember going into the store decades ago and seeing Albert, a kind, respectful man.
I am eager to find out how the fire started, since I believe it will be another crime committed by careless fires by the addicts which have destroyed vacant houses, sheds and garages. It is only a matter of time before someone dies. Allowing the homeless to hang out all night on the streets has to end! There is shelter offered to them, but they refuse to obey the rules or respect the properties/staff. We have allowed this to grow, not charging them so there are deterents and they know then that there are consequences to their actions.
They only stay on the streets to commit crimes at night. The truly homeless are not out at night, they are taking shelter.
Do we have to wait until innocent people die? As we observe in other cities and have seen it here, the issues will only get worse as the addicted homeless become more aggressive. Fires, seniors assaulted for their purses, or just for looking at them wrong, this all has to be dealt with now, before someone dies!
These people are not the truly homeless, but criminals who commit crimes on the streets all night long!

Kal Itea

Albert is a kind gentleman. I am sure he is not angry but saddened.


What a loss of history!
I am surprised that the old Lethbridge Hotel across the street from Galt Gardens hasn’t been burned. I noticed someone had thrown something through a second or third floor building several weeks ago, and now that window and several others are removed. It also is another historical building because it was the first hotel built in 1885.
We didn’t appreciate history as much a few decades ago when we tore down the old Marquis Hotel and buried it in an old canal near Magrath. That hotel was a big thing when it opened in 1928 and was built in hopes of attracting more people and conventions to Southern Alberta and Lethbridge.