Chinatown, Providence

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Providence Chinatown
Neighborhood of Providence
Location of Chinatown was once near Westminster Street
Location of Chinatown was once near Westminster Street
Coordinates: 41°49′25″N 71°25′20″W / 41.82361°N 71.42222°W / 41.82361; -71.42222
Country  United States
State Rhode Island
County Providence County
City Providence, Rhode Island
ZIP Code 02903
Area code(s) Area code 401

The US city of Providence, Rhode Island was once home to at least two Chinatowns, with the first on Burrill Street in the 1890s until 1901 and then around Empire Street around the late 1890s in the southern section of the city. According to another source, the Burrill Street Chinatown was burned to the ground in 1901 by a "mysterious fire" caused by a kerosene stove.[1]

The Empire Street Chinatown was considered one of the "last of the old Chinatowns" in a grouping that included Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore. The extension of Empire Street, proposed in 1914 (according to the Providence Sunday Journal) and completed around 1951 doomed the Chinatown, and all of the buildings were demolished including the former headquarters of local Chinese societies. The enclave was once located next to the Empire Theatre and the Central Baptist Church.[2]

History[edit]

Downtown Providence, 2010. Aerial photo showing former location of Chinatown near downtown

Providence's Chinatown was built in the late 1800s, and disappeared sometime after 1951 according to a historical record of Patrolman Robert Chin, who is notable for being the country's first Chinese-American police officer. He "was raised at 136 Summer Street during the final years of the neighborhood's Chinatown settlement. His parents operated the Far East Noodle Company, which supplied local Chinese restaurants."[3]

Another source said that Chinatown began as a community of Chinese grocery stores, restaurants, boarding houses, and laundries around the early 1890s along Burrill Street where the Blue Cross/Blue Shield building stands today. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, a law which disfavored the Chinese race caused the decline of the Chinatown as future immigrants from China were prevented from coming causing the population of the Chinese race within the city to dwindle, along with the rest of the nation, in what was known as the "Yellow Peril." The neighborhood forced to relocate to nearby Empire Street between Washington and Westminster Streets as development occurred, causing much of the original Burrill Street Chinatown to be demolished. An opinion was made about the Providence Sunday Journal's coverage of the destruction of Chinatown as contradicting itself within a two year span showed that the newspaper had two different perspectives within itself. The February 16, 1913 article showed much discontent for Chinese as it stated that the community "... young white girls [were] hanging out at the Chop Suey houses, there subject to the supposedly 'unhealthy' attentions of womanless Chinese men, as well as the discovery of opium and gambling in the neighborhood...." Then on December 13, 1914, the newspaper article "... spoke of the need to extend Empire Street (rather than Snow Street, as had originally been planned) through to Weybosset Street, with the attendant widening that mysteriously required demolition of every building in Chinatown at that time, and which left that block of Empire Street conspicuously wider than its other two blocks...." [4]

Another historical record indicated that Chinese-white couples were prevalent, during an era when interracial couples were generally shunned. The account references an address that was located near a Chinese laundry.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Providence's Black Chinese: A Love Story". 
  2. ^ "The Last Old Chinatown". 
  3. ^ Patrick T. Conley, Paul Campbell. "South Providence, RI". 
  4. ^ "Providence, Rhode Island, USA Chinatown". 
  5. ^ Mary Ting Li Lui, Mary TIing Yi Lui. "The Chinatown Trunk Mystery: Murder, Miscegenation, and Other Dangerous ...".