Information pertaining to Sing Lee Laundry & Union Café




This is the face view for the historic Sing Lee Laundry and a street view of the Historic Union Cafe


This is a highly stylized artists view of the interior.


Three line art views of the facility


Some of the artifacts earmarked for the facility

Business Plan

Union Café and Sing Lee Laundry

Fort Edmonton Park


Prepared By:

Fort Edmonton Foundation 

First Draft:       May 6, 2009


Initial Draft

Naida Geisler, Fort Edmonton Foundation




Fort Edmonton Foundation and Fort Edmonton Park are proposing the construction of re-creations of the Union Café and Sing Lee Laundry in Fort Edmonton Park..

This document describes the project’s purpose, timelines, financial requirements and forecasted financial outcomes. 

The project committee will seek building capital from various community groups, corporate organizations and individuals.  The Fort Edmonton Management Company will be responsible for on-going programming, operation, and maintenance of the Union Café and Sing Lee Laundry project.

The proposed project offers significant interpretive opportunities related to multiculturalism in early twentieth century and is identified as one of the remaining projects on the Fort Edmonton Park Master Plan, which was reviewed and approved by City Council in 1987.  

A suitable site for the project has been identified on 1905 Street.

The addition of the described project will increase community interest in Fort Edmonton Park and help to maintain and increase park attendance, particularly among demographic groups that may previously have felt a lack of representation of their culture in the Park.

Annual financial results have been projected. This Business Case successfully demonstrates the following:

  • This Project enhances the Park as an historical and programming facility.

  • The project is financially viable.



Fort Edmonton Park

Fort Edmonton Park (FEP) is Canada’s largest living history experience, and a key part of the cultural and recreational makeup of Edmonton.  It is owned by the City of Edmonton and operated by the Fort Edmonton Management Company.

Located on 160 acres in Edmonton’s North Saskatchewan River Valley, FEP is divided into four distinct historical eras: the fur-trade era, 1885 Street, 1905 Street, and 1920 Street.  The Park provides visitors with the opportunity to experience history in the present and learn about the development of the City of Edmonton and surrounds through an experiential, interpretive approach. 

The Park is also offers special functions outside of public hours.  These functions include programming events during the “off-season”;  plus, events specially arranged for private groups (bookings of certain facilities in the Park and special services such as hay or sleigh rides to complement use of the living museum venue).

Fort Edmonton Foundation

Since 1969 the Fort Edmonton Foundation (FEF) has existed to obtain funding for capital projects in FEP.  Over the past 40 years, the Foundation has raised more than $20 million for the construction of over 80 projects in the Park.

Typically, FEF manages project construction.  Once the project has been completed, the Foundation will “gift” the project to the city for ongoing maintenance and interpretation.  The relationship between FEF and FEP is governed by a formal agreement between the City and the Foundation which was originally signed on July 21,1997 and has subsequently been renewed annually. 

Identification of potential projects, and the order in which they will be developed, is guided by the Fort Edmonton Master Plan.  

Fort Edmonton Master Plan

In 1987, Edmonton City Council reviewed and approved the Fort Edmonton Master Plan. The Master Plan was developed to provide the terms of reference for future Park development decisions and to ensure that development was consistent with Park objectives.  The Plan was drawn up in 1968 and revised in 1987.



The FEF and FEP are proposing to construct re-creations of the Union Café and Sing Lee Laundry on 1905 St in Fort Edmonton Park.    Currently, no existing component of Fort Edmonton Park demonstrates the Chinese immigrant experience and contribution in early Edmonton.  Please refer to the 1920s Commercial Block and Capitol Theatre Project Program Statement for architectural detail of the buildings to be replicated; the descriptions and features of the proposed projects, and the location of the proposed project.



The project is currently in the preliminary planning stage.



Mah Sing opened the Union Café at 10310 97 Street in Edmonton in 1911.  He operated the business until he retired in 1954. 

The building next door to the Union Café, house number 10312, was the north front doorway of the Union Café building that opened to a stairway that led to the second floor.  Presumably, this area was operated as a residence or rooming house for Chinese people.

The Union Café catered to farmers and teamsters, and therefore would have offered a typical Western Canadian menu, with some Chinese dishes available to Chinese customers.

No documentation exists on the interior layout of the building.  Typically, such a café would have the seating area at the front, possibly a combination of tables, booths, and perhaps a lunch counter.  In the rear would be a kitchen and food storage facilities.  The Fire Insurance Map indicates a back stairwell at the rear of this building.  The upper floor would have consisted of a series of rooms off a central hallway.  There may have been a sitting area and at least one central bathroom.



The Sing Lee Laundry that was operated from 1906 to 1908 at 10135 103 St was typical of many of the Chinese-owned laundries of the turn of the century book period.  The Sing Lee was a converted western building that the owner worked and lived in, perhaps with one or two of his employees.

Chinese laundries of that era were separated in areas of function.  The main floor was divided in to three sections.  The reception area was in the front, separated by the drying and ironing section by shelving.  At the back of the building was the sorting and washing area, and stairs to the upper floor.  Typically, the upper floor would consist of sleeping quarters and possibly a small sitting area.




The existing market demands that Fort Edmonton Park seeks to satisfy are:

  • educational, and recreational destination for family or tour-group visits;

  • recreational special events as a leisure destination for families;

  • programmed experience for schools and other organizations;

  • themed experiences (venue plus activities) for groups and organizations.


Without the addition of new projects to a living history experience such as Fort Edmonton Park, the community’s interest will diminish over time and overall attendance will suffer.  Need for renewal has been well established by experts in the public attractions field.

Incorporating an early ethnic group representation into the larger context of Fort Edmonton Park will enhance the success of the individual project and the Park visitor experience.  Higher attendance will be achieved through complementary experiences and programming, and synergies of promotion, operation, and management.

These effects on the overall attraction are taken into account in the projected additional gate and ancillary revenues.

Target Markets/Products

  • The following projects and services are planned in association with the development of the Union Café and Sing Lee Laundry (please see Program Statement for details):

  • Public Interpretive Programs

  • School and Structured Programs

  • Displays and Exhibits

  • Special Events.

Competitive Advantages

  • Fort Edmonton Park will be the only living history experience in the greater Edmonton area to share the experience of Chinese immigrants in early twentieth-century Edmonton.

  • As a city-owned facility, Fort Edmonton Park is able to develop synergistic partnerships with other historical institutions and with community groups.

  • As a park facility, the project will benefit from integrated service delivery (Hotel Selkirk, operations, interpretation, and coordination with other Fort Edmonton Park events).

Competitive Disadvantages

  • The mandate of Fort Edmonton Park and the nature of the facilities will impose certain limitations on their use:

  • The size and design of the features will limit the nature of the events and bookings within them.

  • Uses must not interfere with the historic experience of the Park.  For instance, the visibility of non-historic items must be minimized during regular hours.



  • Projected Financial Impact of Operations

  • Fort Edmonton Park and the Fort Edmonton Foundation are determined to ensure that the Union Café and Sing Lee Laundry project be developed as a self-sustaining operating entity and that it make a positive contribution to the overall financial condition of FEP.   

Concept for Operation of the Union Café

  • The design of the main floor of the Union Café would facilitate a food services outlet.

  • Three food items would be sold, on a take out basis only, though the Café: Chop Suey, Chow Mien, and Sweet and Sour Pork.

  • The seating area of the restaurant would accommodate 20 people. 

  • Staff would consist of one part-time cook and one part-time cashier.

  • All food and beverage items will be served on/in environmentally-friendly disposable vessels.

  • Food items would be prepared in a small modern kitchen in the Café.  This kitchen would not be visible to the public.  Refrigeration, electric woks, a workspace, and storage would be required.

  • Food items would be served to the public from a counter situated in front of an “in-time”, non-functioning replicated 1905 Chinese-Canadian restaurant kitchen.

Revenue Opportunities

  • Additional Gate and Ancillary Revenues

This project could potential affect gate revenues to a greater degree than most as will engage an ethnic group that has not previously felt represented in Fort Edmonton Park.  Currently, the Chinese-Canadian population in Edmonton is approximately 55,000.

  • Food Services

Food items could be sold for $6.00 per serving.  Historical data indicates that an average of 400 serving items would be sold each week during park season.  Food Services could create a gross income of $2,400 per week or $9,600 during peak park season.

  • Rental Function Revenue

Rental function opportunities for this project (capacity 20) include:

  • children’s birthday parties

  • meetings

Annual Operating Costs

  • Utillities

  • custodial services

  • building maintenance (preventative maintenance, scheduled inspection and servicing, unscheduled (trouble) repairs, life-cycle equipment replacement)

  • security

  • 2 Part time Staff

  • booking and user liaison services


Operating Budget

The operating budget is available as an external document.



It is therefore recommended that the proposal to construct the Union Café and Sing Lee Laundry be endorsed, subject to the required approvals and permits, and assurance that sufficient capital funding is confirmed.