The Sam Kee Company - originally owned by one of the wealthiest businessmen in Vancouver Chinatown, Mr. Chang Toy (also known as Sam Kee) - purchased the standard-sized lot in 1903. In 1912, however, Vancouver widened Pender Street and expropriated 24 feet (7.3 m) of the above-ground portion of the property—effectively (or so it was first believed) making conventional commercial use of the remaining frontage impractical, if not impossible. After Chang Toy refused the neighbour's offer to buy the remaining land, someone bet him that he couldn’t use the land for anything. In 1913, the architects Brown and Gillam designed this narrow, steel-framed building's ground-floor depth (from storefront to rear of building) to measure 4'11" (1.50 m), with a second-floor depth (from overhanging bay window to rear) of 6' (1.83 m). The basement extends beneath the sidewalk and originally housed public baths, while the ground floor was used for offices and shops and the top story for living quarters.
Historical renovation of the building was designed by Soren Rasmussen and was completed in 1986. It is a tourist attraction and an insurance office.
The building is considered the narrowest commercial building in the world according to the Guinness Book of Records