Vancouver's Hendrix Shrine

The JIMI HENDRIX SHRINE, 796 Main St. Chinatown, Vancouver
JIMI HENDRIX SHRINE, 796 Main St. Chinatown, Vancouver - Photographer: J. Allan/Voodoo Hendrix

I recently visited “The Jimi Hendrix Shrine” which is located at 796 Main Street and Union Street in Vancouver Canada’s Chinatown. The building at 796 Main Street is currently a Hostel and the “Shrine” operates out of the storage shed at the rear of the building.

So what is this place, this "Jimi Hendrix Shrine”? And why is it located in Vancouver Canada of all places? First, let’s take a quick tour of the Shrine and then we’ll focus on Jimi’s connection to the city of Vancouver.

The Jimi Hendrix Shrine reminds me of a juvenile clubhouse, psychedelically painted and decorated with various homemade Hendrix memorabilia.

Hanging from the ceiling in front of the uppermost windows are little wooden hand painted guitars, there’s even a “Guitar Hero” Xbox controller hanging among them.

Jimi's Grandmother

Jimi and Grandmother Mannequin Figures @ The Jimi Hendrix ShrineAs you walk in you can’t help but notice the mannequin figure (representing Jimi’s Grandmother) dressed in an apron and holding a spoon, stirring a pot on a stove while Jimi is represented playing a guitar beside her. She seems so out of place, why is Jimi's Grandmother so prominently featured at The Shrine?

What is the significance of Jimi's Grandmother at The Shrine and why is she so prominently displayed? Keep reading to find out...

Jimi Loved Science Fiction like UFO's and Space Creatures

Jimi Hendrix Posters in the Garden @ The Jimi Hendrix ShrineOutside, around back, there are some huge posters featuring Jimi. One depicts Jimi standing on the White House playing his strat and fighting off UFO’s (my fav) and others that feature Jimi with Monika Dannemann (my least fav).

The Experience Button

Memorial Replica @ The Jimi Hendrix Shrine

Around the side of the Shrine there is a plywood/tent/draped replica of the Jimi Hendrix Memorial in Greenwood Cemetery (you know... like the one located just outside of Seattle, WA) but with a twist... you can press the "Experience Button" to listen to Jimi play some soaring guitar.

I must admit, I didn’t know what to make of the place at first but as I let the whole "Shrine Experience" stay with me for a while I started to relax into it.

Yes, it’s true that it does have a juvenile clubhouse feel and features homemade art but that does not mean it's not a valid, cool or worthwhile place to visit… because it is a valid, cool and worthwhile place to visit. In fact, the juvenile clubhouse feel is part of its charm and beauty and so is its homemade art. I personally believe that these people put a lot of thought, time, effort and energy into the place... and their own money too.

Shrine Volunteers (The Shriners!)

Jordan a volunteer @ The Jimi Hendrix ShrineThe thing to remember is that they (The Shrine) have no financial backers, no billionaires funding the place and they don’t charge admission. The people who work there are all volunteers who are not paid a dime for their time.

The Shrine and the people who volunteer there are simply celebrating Jimi Hendrix and his connection to the city of Vancouver.

Thinking of visiting Vancouver's Jimi Hendrix Shrine?Please note that it is only open in the summer from June to Aug, 1pm to 6pm daily. Admission is free but donations are accepted.

Why is The Jimi Hendrix Shrine located where it is?

Vie’s Chicken and Steak House Sign @ The Jimi Hendrix ShrineThe Jimi Hendrix Shrine is housed in the previous location of Vie’s Chicken and Steak House, a popular restaurant in a mostly African American neighbourhood known at the time as “The Square Mile of Sin.” The neighbourhood is now much more culturally diverse and borders on Chinatown and an area known as “Hogan’s Alley.”

The restaurant was in business from 1950 to 1976 and Jimi’s Grandmother; Zenora (Nora) Hendrix cooked there at some period of time, for how long she worked there or exactly what year or years, is hard to know.

There is some controversy as to whether Vie’s steak house was actually located in the same building as the Shrine, and that the Shrine was really just a storage shed.

In my opinion the location of the Shrine has very little to do with its legitimacy. I don’t believe the restaurant itself was a very significant and meaningful place to Jimi. He probably spent time there. Probably ate there. Some articles I’ve looked at suggest that Jimi used to busk outside or have band rehearsals in the shed. The important thing is that the Shrine is located in a neighbourhood that was significant to Jimi because his family had roots there; he lived there at several points growing up, and visited there often.

Jimi Hendrix in Vancouver

A Quick Hendrix Family History

Bertran Philander Ross Hendricks and Nora Moore

A year after the American Civil War ended in 1866, Jimi’s grandfather Bertran Philander Ross Hendricks was born in Urbana City, Ohio. Bertran’s mother was a former black slave while is his father was a white slave master who had formally enslaved Bertran's mother.

Bertran met Nora Moore in Chicago working with a vaudeville troupe. Soon they were married and moved to Seattle in 1909. They stayed in Seattle for three or four months and permanently moved to Vancouver British Columbia. They had four children. Jimi’s Father Al, was child number four.

Hendrix or Hendricks?In 1912, Bertran legally changed the family name from Hendricks, to Hendrix.

In Vancouver Bertran worked as a labourer, a servant, a bathroom attendant and finally as a steward at a golf course. Bertran died in 1934 at 43 years of age. (Jimi never met his grandfather.) After his death, the family went on welfare, lost their home and eventually moved into a run-down house on East Georgia Street with Nora’s new boyfriend.

Jimi and Nora Hendrix

Nora often cared for Jimi when he was young and his father and mother were fighting or when Jimi’s Dad was experiencing hard times. When Jimi was seven, he was cared for by Nora in Vancouver where he completed first grade.

Says Jimi, “There were family troubles between my mother and father… they used to break up all the time… I used to go to different homes. I stayed at my aunt’s and grandmother’s. I always had to be ready to go tippy-toeing off to Canada.”

Nora's great-grandmother was a full-blooded Cherokee. This made Jimi Hendrix at least one-eighth Native American.

Nora would often tell Jimi stories of her Cherokee ancestors and of her time spent as a performer in vaudeville. Think “Castles Made of Sand.”

From "Castles Made of Sand" -- Words and Music by Jimi Hendrix.A little Indian brave who before he was ten,
Played war games in the woods with his Indian friends
And he built up a dream that when he grew up
He would be a fearless warrior Indian Chief
Many moons past and more the dream grew strong until
Tomorrow he would sing his first war song and fight his first battle
But something went wrong, surprise attack killed him in his sleep that night
And so Castles Made of Sand…

Eating Southern Soul Food in Vancouver

Nora was reportedly an excellent traditional southern soul food cook. (…she must have prepared some tasty food at “Vie’s Chicken Inn!”) When Jimi would stay with her he was exposed to collard greens, grits, hog maws and chitlins (pig intestines). And of course Jimi went on to play the “Chitlin Circuit” with the King Kasuals and other groups.

Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers

Sometime in early 1962 when Jimi was around nineteen years old, Jimi quit the King Kasuals and moved in with his grandmother. He joined a band called Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers where he played rhythm guitar. The Vancouver’s played Motown, Surf and Rock style music and purportedly played almost exclusively at a Hogan Alley nightclub named Dante’s Inferno.

Cheech and ChongThe lead guitar player in The Vancouvers with Jimi was Tommy Chong who would later partner with Cheech Marin to form Cheech and Chong!

Jimi soon tired of the all-caucasian Vancouver scene and quit the band in late 1962. He caught a train southbound to the Mississippi Delta and hooked back into the chitlin circuit. Eventually he made his way to New York City where he was "discovered" and brought to London England where he formed the Experience.

Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum

In September 1968, The Jimi Hendrix Experience played the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver. His grandmother Nora attended the concert to whom he dedicated his song “Foxy Lady.”

After the show Nora was interviewed by a TV reporter and declared “The way he was picking that guitar, oh my gracious! I don’t see how he could stand all that noise.”

That Sept 1968 show at the Pacific Coliseum would be the last time Jimi would play Vancouver or see his grandmother.

Thanks for reading! Please post your comments about The Jimi Hendrix Shrine or about Jimi’s connection to the city of Vancouver using the form below or sign our wall using the link below.

Sign The Voodoo Hendrix Memorial Wall.

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I always had to be ready to go tippy-toeing off to Canada...

--Jimi Hendrix