Chinatowns in the United States

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Chinatown, My Chinatown.pdf
Cover of sheet music, published in 1910
Chinese 唐人街
Alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 中國城
Simplified Chinese 中国城
Second alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 華埠
Simplified Chinese 华埠

This is a list of the Chinatowns located in the United States.


Chinatowns in the United States have historically been located in the "big cities" such as New York City, San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, and Chicago and existed initially as enclaves that ease transition into the American culture. The earliest Chinatowns tended to be on the west coast while the newer ones are being built in lesser profile cities as opportunities shift. As the migration trends toward returning to China, many Chinatowns, especially smaller ones like the one in Washington, D.C., begin to lose their initial mission. Today, many urban Chinatowns in the United States are becoming visitor centers rather than serving as the ethnic enclaves they once were, although the rapidly growing satellite New York City Chinatowns in the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn on Long Island represent a stark exception to this trend in North America, fueled by continuing robust levels of large-scale immigration from mainland China specifically directed toward New York.[1][2][3]

The significant timeline is as follows:


In general, Chinatowns are not necessarily the locations where significant Chinese populations occur as some are defunct and some are merely historical, such as the one in Washington, D.C.

The cities with the five highest Chinese American populations, with New York City comprising over half of the combined total, according to the 2010 United States Census, were as follows:


Jerome - There was a small Chinatown in the 1870s[6]

Phoenix - Chinese immigrants working as railroad workers established the first Chinatown in downtown Phoenix at First and Adams Street in the present location of US Airways Center. All building have been torn down except for the Sun Mercantile Building.[7] A Chinatown-themed shopping center built to traditional Chinese architecture was opened in 1997 near the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. It is called the Chinese Cultural Center and the offices are located at 668 N. 44th St, a bit north of Van Buren St.

Prescott - Granite Street, between Goodwin and Gurley Street was the location of a Chinatown and more than 200 Chinese during late 19th and early 20th century. The area was razed in 1934 in order to make room for new construction.[8]

Tucson - A Chinatown began to form in Tucson after the railroad arrived in 1880. Tucson's Chinese population was very small and never exceeded 2% of the city's population. The remaining and partly abandoned structures were demolished in 1968. However, in 1968 researchers discovered a complex called the "Ying On compound" still contained a group of working class elderly Chinese men.[9]


Given its relative proximity to East Asia and Southeast Asia, California has the largest number of Chinese among the American states,[10] including the well-known Chinatown in San Francisco, an all-Chinese town of Locke built by Chinese immigrants, and Chinatowns in various cities throughout the state.

Northern California[edit]

San Francisco[edit]

Distinctive Chinese-style architecture characterizes the streets of San Francisco's historic Chinatown, one of the oldest and largest in the United States.

The first, and one of the largest, most prominent and highly visited Chinatowns in the Americas is San Francisco's Chinatown, which is predominantly Cantonese-speaking, though many immigrants from Mainland China (mostly hailing from Guangdong province) are also fluent in Mandarin. Its main entrance is at Grant Avenue at Bush Street, but the center of Chinese commercial activities is on Stockton Avenue, whereas the section mostly oriented towards tourists is on Grant Avenue.

Arch to San Francisco's Chinatown.

Founded around 1850, Chinatown was destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and was later rebuilt and re-realized, using a Chinese-style architecture that has been criticized as garish and touristy. According to Sunset Magazine, Chinatown receives millions of tourists annually, making the community, along with Alcatraz and Golden Gate Bridge, one of the prime attractions and highlights of the city of San Francisco, as well as the centerpiece of Chinese-American history. With its Chinatown as the landmark, the city of San Francisco itself has one of the largest and predominant concentrations of Chinese-American population centers, representing 20% of total population as of the 2000 Census, more than New York City in terms of proportional numbers according to anthropologist Bernard Wong. While many ethnic Chinese do not reside in Chinatown today, but instead throughout the city of San Francisco as well as the surrounding Oakland and San Jose areas, Chinatown remains the historical anchor. It has also remained the symbolic center as city politicians and candidates have made it a de rigueur stop during election campaigns. Historically and today, Chinese in America refer to San Francisco in Cantonese as Die Foul (大埠, which can be translated as 大城, da cheng in Mandarin or the Big City in English.)

Besides the main thoroughfare of Grant Avenue and various side streets, Chinatown has several side alleys, including Ross Alley. Contained within this alley is a mix of touristy stores, tiny barber shop (once patronized by famous singer Frank Sinatra) as well as a fortune cookie factory. Ross Alley used to have brothels, but they no longer exist.

Chinatown in San Francisco

Also within the confines of Chinatown is the Woh Hei Yuen Recreation Center and Park on Powell Street. Many Chinese-speaking old-timers are frequent patrons this park because their lodgings – generally intended for low-income persons – tend to be tiny and cramped. Many elderly people gather to play mahjong, Chinese poker, perform t'ai chi exercises in the morning, read a Chinese newspaper, or simply to lounge around.

The San Francisco Chinatown hosts the largest Chinese New Year parade in the Americas, with corporate sponsors such as the Bank of America and the award-winning and widely praised dragon dance team from the San Francisco Police Department, composed solely of Chinese-American SFPD officers (the only such team in existence in the United States). In its founding, it received the grant from the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, otherwise known as the Chinese Six Companies. As Chinatown and many Chinese-Americans in the San Francisco Bay Area have historical or current roots in province of Guangdong, China (particularly Taishan County) and in Hong Kong, these dances mostly are performed in the southern Chinese style.

The first Chinese-American police chief in the United States, Fred Lau, of the SFPD, grew up in San Francisco Chinatown. The former SFPD Chief of Police, Heather Fong, was also born and raised in Chinatown. At the start of her police career, Fong was a key investigator of the notorious 1977 Golden Dragon massacre in Chinatown.

San Francisco Chinatown has been shown in numerous movies and television shows, and boasts a number of firsts, including the invention of chop suey, being the site of printing currency for the then-newly emerged Republic of China, and the first Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association. During the civil rights movement of the 1960s, San Francisco's Chinatown was also at the center for Chinese-American activism and radical politics, some of which was militant, as well as major gang activity with the emergence of the notorious Wah Ching in the Americas. Currently, the historic Chinatown shows some signs of decline.

After President Richard M. Nixon's historic 1972 visit to the People's Republic of China, the arrival of new Chinese immigrants to the San Francisco area helped diversify and introduce new Chinese cuisine from many regions throughout mainland China in its Chinatown—the restaurants previously served mainly Cantonese and unauthentic Chinese-American fare.

Today, as with most Chinatowns in or near congested urban centers, parking problems still continue to plague the area, which has implications on the economy of the enclave. Due to the aging infrastructure which pre-dated the advent of the motor vehicle, it has been said nothing could be done by the municipal government of San Francisco to alleviate such problems. Many principal ethnic Chinese residents and frequenters of Chinatown are elderly and do not speak much English and in terms of transportation have very limited mobility and remain in Chinatown for shopping and social services through the local associations.


Main article: Chinatown, Oakland
Chinatown, Oakland

Oakland's Chinatown is frequently referred to as "Oakland Chinatown" in order to distinguish it from nearby San Francisco's Chinatown. Originally formed in the 1860s, the Chinatown of Oakland – centering upon 8th Street and Webster Street – shares a long history as its counterpart in the city of San Francisco as Oakland's community remains one of the focal point of Chinese American heritage in the San Francisco Bay Area. However, the major difference with San Francisco's Chinatown is that Oakland's version is not as touristy, as its local economy tends not to rely on tourism as much. But the local government of Oakland has since promoted it as such as it is considered one the top sources of sales tax revenue for the city. The Chinatown does not have an ornamental entrance arch (paifang) but the streets of the community are adorned with road signs in English with Chinese rendering.

Today, while it remains a Cantonese-speaking enclave, it is not exclusively Chinese anymore, but more of a pan-Asian neighborhood which reflects Oakland's diversity of Asian communities, including Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Filipinos, Japanese, Cambodian, Laotian, Mien, Thai, and others. In addition to the standard Chinese New Year festivities, the Oakland Chinatown Streetfest (held by the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce) is also held yearly in August and it features Chinese lion dances, parades, music, cooking demonstrations and contests, a food festival, and various activities.

San Jose/Silicon Valley[edit]

While San Jose had several Chinatowns in the past, they are all extinct today.

Several Silicon Valley suburban communities including Cupertino and Sunnyvale have large populations of Chinese immigrants and have been called Chinatowns.[11]


Sacramento has a relatively small urban Chinatown, which dates back to the early days of the California Gold Rush. Generally, it now serves more as a museum than anything else.


There still exists a small Chinatown on Chung Wah Lane, East Market Street and East Washington Street. Although it is a very small area, there are some Chinese stores in it as well as restaurants such as On Lock Sam, the city's oldest restaurant, founded in 1898. The community was once quite large but, after development in the 1950s and 1960s and the construction of the Crosstown freeway, businesses moved, buildings were demolished, new buildings were built, and the community changed forever. There is still a Chinese New Year Parade merged with the Vietnamese New Year celebrations.


Just beyond the Sacramento and Stockton areas, the small town of Locke is an example of an early rural "Chinatown" completely built by Chinese immigrants in 1915. Consisting of only three streets in town (Main Street, River Road, and Key Street), it was a thriving community with various merchants and associations as its economy based mostly on the agriculture. Very few ethnic Chinese live there these days. The Dai Loy Museum – dai loy(大來) literally renders as "big come" in Taishanese – as well as one Chinese restaurant offering a mixture of traditional Cantonese and Americanized Chinese food are features in Locke. In the early 1980s, a 30-minute documentary from the University of California, Berkeley called American Chinatown, which documented the last surviving immigrant old-timers as well as battles with land developers and the touristification of the community.

Gold Country[edit]

There were substantial populations of Chinese in the Gold Country region of Northern and Central California; the Chinese had served as miners and railroad workers. These settlements included Amador County's Chinatown, Chinese Camp, Fiddletown (which contains a museum operated in a former Chinese medicine store), Newcastle Truckee [12]

Central Valley[edit]

Work is underway to revitalize Fresno's once-moribund Chinatown, founded in 1885 at F Street in the San Joaquin Valley city. It is undergoing a massive beautification project. However, currently the area is not exclusively Chinese. One of the major problems is that there are fewer Chinese businesses there. But the area already holds an annual Chinese New Year celebration. The Chinatown Revitalization Inc has been making several efforts to support the Chinatown of Fresno.

The town of Hanford, about 30 miles distance from Fresno, features a ramshackle Chinatown from the 19th century era, mostly contained within a small street block known as China Alley. Many early immigrants arrived from the Sam Yup region (or Sanyi in modern pinyin) in the province of Guangdong, China. Many of its multigeneration American-born Chinese descendants of original settlers have since moved on. Chinatown had its early share of opium dens and brothels. In modern times, all that still stands of China Alley is a Taoist temple (a monument officially recognized by the National Register of Historic Places) and a special museum.

Bakersfield, located in the southern San Joaquin Valley, once had enough Chinese residents to have two identifiable Chinatowns. A 1933 city map shows the boundaries of the area known as Old Chinatown as between K and N Streets and between 20th and 23rd Streets. Settled mainly by people from the Sanyi region of Guangdong Province, it began to take shape in the early 1870s.[13] It consisted of stores, restaurants, rooming houses, laundries, gambling parlors, herb shops, tong headquarters, temples, two banks, and a theater. Until the turn of the twentieth century, most of the residents were single men, with a total estimated population of 3,000 between 1890 and 1900.[14] For a brief time, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the founder of the Republic of China, was a resident of Old Chinatown when he was eliciting support for the revolution that eventually overthrew the Qing dynasty in 1911.[13]

A smaller Chinatown, known as New Chinatown, sprang up in 1889 when several Chinese businesses moved to an area on Q Street, between 17th and 18th Streets, and Chinese bought nearby property. The inhabitants of New Chinatown were later arrivals who originated mainly in the Siyi region of Guangdong Province. After New Chinatown was completely destroyed by fire in April 1896, it was rebuilt with brick construction replacing the old wooden structures.[13]

After 1925, the number of Chinese in Bakersfield steadily decreased, and the earthquake of 1952 brought about the destruction of most Chinatown buildings. However, a small number were rebuilt to serve the needs of Chinese residents; these buildings included the Ying On Association at 2110 L Street and the Let Sing Gong Temple at 18th and R Streets.[14] The Chinese school and local headquarters of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association at 2128 N Street, also known as the Confucius Church, was established in 1949 and survived the earthquake.[13]

A plaque in China Alley, between 21st and 22nd Streets at the center of Old Chinatown, commemorates the alley’s inclusion on the Register of Historic Places by the Bakersfield City Council.[15]

Southern California[edit]

Entryway to Los Angeles' Chinatown, where ethnic Chinese from Vietnam and Cambodia live and own businesses

Inland Empire[edit]

Several cities of the Inland Empire region once had standing Chinatowns, including the former farming communities of San Bernardino, Riverside, and Redlands.

San Bernardino's Chinatown, pioneered in the late 1870s, occupied Third Street between Arrowhead and Mountain View. During its peak in the 1890s, the community flourished with several Chinese habitations and community trades, such as shops. By the 1920s, Chinatown experienced decline and the last remnants of Chinatown fell into obscurity in 1959.

The Chinatown in Redlands was on what is now Oriental Avenue and Texas Street. It is no longer extant.

The Chinatown of Riverside was established in 1885. The remaining Chinese American survivor of Riverside's Chinatown died off in 1974. He attempted to preserve Chinatown, but his efforts were in vain because the last remnant of Riverside's Chinatown was razed in 1978. As with many early Chinatowns in the small and medium-sized towns of California, the once vibrant Chinese American history has faded into obscurity.

Los Angeles[edit]

Color guards in Moon Festival Parade, Chinatown, Los Angeles, 1954
Thien Hau Temple, another popular attraction in Los Angeles New Chinatown.

In the city of Los Angeles proper, the old inner-city Chinatown was built during the late 1930s–the second Chinatown to be constructed in Los Angeles. Formerly a "Little Italy," it is presently located along Hill Street, Broadway and Spring Street near Dodger Stadium in downtown Los Angeles with restaurants, grocers, and tourist-oriented shops and plazas. A sculpture of dueling gold dragons spans Broadway and marks the entrance to Chinatown with a statue honoring the Kuomintang founder Dr. Sun Yat-sen adorning the northeast section. The enclave contains Buddhist temples, Chinese Christian church (with services conducted in Cantonese), and a temple devoted to the Chinese Goddess of the Sea. Chinatown is home to family and regional associations and general service organizations for long time immigrants (called in Cantonese lo wah cue) as well as ones founded by and for a second wave of Indochina-born immigrants after the Vietnam War ended.

The day-to-day importance of Chinatown has shrunk as the San Gabriel Valley became the heart of the region's Chinese-American community over several decades. Chinatown has largely been passed over by the most recent waves of immigrants from Asia. Chinatown has a rich history as one of the earliest parts of Los Angeles to be settled and has become attractive as it redevelops as part of downtown transformation. Investment by non-Chinese investors represents an "upward trajectory," but also "raises some unsettling questions about community identity and ... the future of ethnic Chinese" in Chinatown according to Michael Woo, a former Los Angeles City Council member.[16]

San Diego[edit]

San Diego's Chinatown was founded in the 1870s around Market Street and Third Avenue, but faded quickly after World War Two. In 1987, due to its historic and cultural value, the city council of San Diego sought to preserve the area and officially designated it the Asian Pacific Thematic Historic District, which partially overlaps the burgeoning and gentrified Gaslamp Quarter Historic District (the center of the San Diego's trendy nightlife scene). The annual San Diego Chinese New Year Food and Cultural Faire is presented in this particular district, and the San Diego Chinese Heritage Museum is located here.

San Luis Obispo[edit]

There is a nearly forgotten "Chinatown" from the middle 1870s on Chorro Street and Palm Street in the Central Coast town of San Luis Obispo. An early Chinese store was owned by early Chinese immigrant pioneer and influential community leader Ah Louis. It is now considered a historic relic. Also, many Chinese artifacts of the community have since been discovered during excavations. Railroad Square features a statue that honors the Chinese immigrant laborers who worked on the railroads in the vicinity of San Luis Obispo.


Ventura had a flourishing Chinese settlement in the early 1880s. The largest concentration of activity, known as China Alley, was just across Main Street from the Mission San Buenaventura. China Alley was parallel with Main Street and extended easterly off Figueroa Street between Main and Santa Clara Streets.[17] The city council designated the China Alley Historic Area a Point of Interest in the downtown business district.[18]

Other Places[edit]

Calico Ghost Town, in the Mojave Desert, had its own Chinatown.[19]



Main article: Chinatown, Denver

The U.S. city of Denver once had a Chinatown that existed in the "LoDo" section of town on Wazee Street.

District of Columbia[edit]

The old Chinatown of Washington, D.C. is on I Street and H Street, from 5th to 7th St NW. Today, it has roughly 10 Chinese restaurants, mostly geared towards tourists. It has been part of a redevelopment movement occurring in the Downtown Washington, D.C. area. Mainstream restaurant and retail chains have mostly filled in Chinatown.[20]



The Wo Fat Building in the Chinatown district of Honolulu.
Main article: Chinatown, Honolulu

The official and historic Chinatown of Honolulu, on North Hotel Street and Maunakea Street, contains traditional ethnic Chinese businesses. Unlike Chinatowns in the continental United States which were largely pioneered and dominated by Taishan immigrants, Honolulu's Chinatown was started by early settlers from Zhongshan, Guangdong Province in the 1890s. They migrated to Hawaii for work in the island's cane sugar plantations as well as rice fields and then as they became successful eventually relocating to the city of Honolulu. As with other Chinatowns in the United States, it was noted for its unsanitary conditions. In the 1940s, it degenerated into a red-light district.

Today, it is also diverse with Pan-Asian and Pacific Islander businesses and the ethnic Chinese from Vietnam are largely demographically represented in Honolulu's Chinatown. Businesses include markets, bakeries, Chinese porcelain shop, and shops specializing with gingseng herbal remedies. In Chinatown, there are also bazaars and street peddlers in the Kekaulike Mall (located on Kekaulike Street) bringing it unique bustling ambiance to the community. The variety of restaurants serving Hong Kong-style dim sum and others in Vietnamese beef noodle soup are frequent in Chinatown. The history of Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-sen – from the Zhongshan region of Guangdong province of China – is tied to Hawaii, having receiving his Western education there. Chinatown, Honolulu was once served as the base of operations in a series of crusades against ruling Qing Dynasty in China that culminate in the Revolution of 1911. There is a monument in his honor in Honolulu's Chinatown. Recent development and planning has dramatically transformed the once decaying and unsafe neighborhood to an upscale Asian inspired arts district blended with the traditional Chinese bazaars and family owned stores.



Chicago's Chinatown

The Chinatown in Chicago is a traditional urban Chinatown occupying the area along Wentworth Avenue at Cermak Road south of downtown. This area has historically been dominated by commerce, though in recent years, residential developments have greatly increased the number of people living in the area. With restaurants, markets, shops, associations, and community services, this original Chinatown particularly attracts Chinese emigres hailing from China. The annual Chinese New Year and Chinese Double Ten Day Parade are held in Chinatown.

Argyle Street in "New Chinatown", Chicago

Chicagoans also refer to a Southeast Asian community on Argyle Street in the north side as the "New Chinatown", or alternatively, as "Little Chinatown".[citation needed] But at this point, this "new" chinatown still pales in size and scope to the more traditional chinatown. This so-called "Chinatown" is actually inhabited by the minority ethnic Chinese who were born in Vietnam and Cambodia.


New Orleans[edit]

The first significant migration of Chinese into Louisiana took place during Reconstruction after the American Civil War, when local planters imported hundreds Cantonese contract workers from Cuba and California as a low-cost substitute for slave labor.[21] By 1870, the Chinese were abandoning the plantations and finding work in the cities, especially New Orleans, and by the 1880s, a flourishing Chinatown had formed on the 1100 Block of Tulane Avenue, near Elk Place, in the Faubourg Ste. Marie. When it existed, New Orleans Chinatown was the largest Chinatown in the American South.[22] The Chinese came to dominate the laundry industry of the city during this era, as they had in other American cities. The original unskilled laborers were joined by merchants from San Francisco, who operated businesses to service the growing Chinese population in the region and to profit from trade at the Port of Orleans.

But in 1937, nearly all of the Faubourg Ste. Marie, including Chinatown, was demolished by WPA development to build the modern Central Business District.[23] The former site of Chinatown is now the Tulane Medical Center. The Chinese attempted to build a second Chinatown on the 500 block of Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. In the 1940s, this section of Bourbon was still predominantly residential. But by then, the younger generation of American-born Chinese were abandoning the laundry industry and migrating to the suburban eastbank of Jefferson Parish, where much of the Chinese population lives today. Only a few Chinese businesses successfully migrated to the French Quarter Chinatown, which was abandoned in subsequent years[citation needed].

Today, nearly all traces of the historic New Orleans Chinatown have been obliterated. The only surviving marker of New Orleans Chinatown is the On Leong Association's painted sign over the door of their former meeting hall at 530 Bourbon.[24]



Main article: Chinatown, Baltimore

There existed a Chinatown on Park Ave. in Baltimore, which was dominated by laundries and restaurants. A few Chinese restaurants and groceries remain on Park Ave. between West Franklin Street and West Saratoga Street[citation needed].



Main article: Chinatown, Boston
A view from within Chinatown, Boston looking towards the paifang

The sole established Chinatown of New England is in Boston, on Beach Street and Washington Street near South Station between Downtown Crossing and Tufts Medical Center. There are many Chinese, Japanese, Cambodian, and Vietnamese restaurants and markets.

In the pre-Chinatown era, the area was settled in succession by Irish, Jewish, Italian, and Syrian immigrants as each group replaced another. Syrians were later succeeded by Chinese immigrants, and Chinatown was established in 1890. From the 1960s to the 1980s, Boston's Chinatown was located in the Combat Zone, which served as Boston's red light district, but sandwiched between the dual expansions of Chinatown from the East and Emerson College from the West, the Combat Zone, while still in existence, has shrunk to almost nothing.

Currently, Boston's Chinatown is experiencing a threat from gentrification policies as large luxury residential towers are built in and surrounding an area that was overwhelmingly three, four, and five-story small apartment buildings intermixed with retail and light-industrial spaces.[25][26]

Several Boston suburbs—notably North Quincy—have developed their own Chinatowns in response to this pressure.[27]



Main article: Chinatown, Detroit
One of several Chinese strip malls on John R Road in Madison Heights.

Detroit's Chinatown was originally located at Third Avenue, Porter St and Bagley St, now the permanent site of the MGM Grand Casino.[28] In the 1960s, urban renewal efforts, as well as the opportunity for the Chinese business community to purchase property led to a relocation centered at Cass Avenue and Peterboro.[29] However, Detroit's urban decline and escalating street violence, primarily the killing of restauranteur Tommie Lee, led to the new location's demise, with the last remaining Chinese food restaurant in Chinatown finally shut its doors in the early 2000s. Although there is still a road marker indicating "Chinatown" and a mural commemorating the struggle for justice in the Vincent Chin case, only one Chinese American establishment still operates within the borders of the City of Detroit. The Association of Chinese Americans Detroit Outreach Center,[30] a small community center, serves a handful of new Chinese immigrants who still reside in the Cass Corridor.

Just north of Detroit in Madison Heights, there is a small but present strip of East Asian commercial outlets along John R. Road, which include restaurants and retail managed by individuals of Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, and Filipino descent. Also located in Madison Heights is the Association of Chinese Americans' Chinese Community Center. Although the Chinese American population of Southeast Michigan is comparatively smaller than other American cities, the Detroit chapter of the ACA is the only branch of the Organization of Chinese Americans to have a fully operational community center, as well as two satellite service centers.[31]


St. Louis[edit]

Main article: Chinatown, St. Louis

St. Louis' original Chinatown, also called "Hop Alley", was in the city of St. Louis, Missouri[32] before it was eventually replaced by Busch Stadium in the 1960s. During its prime, it had a plethora of hand laundries, but later Chinese restaurants became the primary economic source. An effort to establish a new Chinatown in University City, Missouri has had partial success. Several Chinese businesses and restaurants populate the area. The current problem facing the new Chinatown is that not many Chinese residents choose to live there.


Las Vegas[edit]

Main article: Chinatown, Las Vegas

The only Chinatown in Las Vegas was initially just a large shopping center called "Chinatown Plaza." It is the so-called "first master-planned Chinatown in America" with the Chinese American supermarket chain 99 Ranch Market serving as its anchor. The plaza location is west of the Las Vegas Strip and Interstate 15 at 4255 Spring Mountain Road, just outside the casino areas in what is a typical American neighborhood. The area has been officially designated "Chinatown" by Nevada governor Kenny Guinn and by city of Las Vegas with parking areas allotted for buses as well. (The Chinatown has its own designated exit off-ramp sign on Interstate 15.) Furthermore, the Chinese American population tends to be somewhat more dispersed throughout Las Vegas than in Southern California.

Virginia City[edit]

As with the Gold Country in California, Virginia City was mined in part by the Chinese. The town has a historic Chinatown which had a Chinese population of over 1500 in the 1870s.[33][34]

New Jersey[edit]


Edison, New Jersey has a thriving Chinatown.[35] The proximity and accessibility by mass transit of this Chinatown to the remainder of the New York metropolitan area have positioned this district in expansion mode. However, unlike the Chinatowns in New York City, which incorporate an almost exclusively Chinese presence, this Chinatown comprises a growing Vietnamese population and business hub as well.


Chinatown, Newark, was a Chinese enclave in Downtown Newark, New Jersey, that thrived in the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century and was centered on Mulberry Arcade.

New York[edit]

New York City[edit]

An intersection in Manhattan Chinatown

The New York metropolitan area contains the largest ethnic Chinese population outside of Asia, enumerating 735,019 individuals as of 2012,[36] including at least 12 Chinatowns - six[37] (or nine, including the emerging Chinatowns in Corona and Whitestone, Queens,[38] and East Harlem, Manhattan) in New York City proper, and one each in Nassau County, Long Island; Edison, New Jersey;[38] and Parsippany-Troy Hills, New Jersey, not to mention fledgling ethnic Chinese enclaves emerging throughout the New York City metropolitan area. Chinese Americans, as a whole, have had a (relatively) long tenure in New York City.

The first Chinese immigrants came to Lower Manhattan around 1870, looking for the "golden" opportunities America had to offer.[39] By 1880, the enclave around Five Points was estimated to have from 200 to as many as 1,100 members.[39] However, the Chinese Exclusion Act, which went into effect in 1882, caused an abrupt decline in the number of Chinese who immigrated to New York and the rest of the United States.[39] Later, in 1943, the Chinese were given a small quota, and the community's population gradually increased until 1968, when the quota was lifted and the Chinese American population skyrocketed.[39] In the past few years, the Cantonese dialect that has dominated Chinatown for decades is being rapidly swept aside by Mandarin Chinese, the national language of China and the lingua franca of most of the latest Chinese immigrants.[40]


The Manhattan Chinatown (simplified Chinese: 纽约华埠 ; traditional Chinese: 紐約華埠; pinyin: Niŭyuē Huá Bù), the historical focus of one of the largest concentrations of Chinese people in the Western Hemisphere, is located in the borough of Manhattan in New York City. Within Manhattan's expanding Chinatown lies a Little Fuzhou on East Broadway and surrounding streets, occupied predominantly by immigrants from the Fujian Province of Mainland China. Areas surrounding the "Little Fuzhou" consist mostly of Cantonese immigrants from Guangdong Province, the earlier Chinese settlers, and in some areas moderately of Cantonese immigrants. In the past few years, however, the Cantonese dialect that has dominated Chinatown for decades is being rapidly swept aside by Mandarin, the national language of China and the lingua franca of most of the latest Chinese immigrants.[41] The energy and population of Manhattan's Chinatown are fueled by relentless, massive immigration from Mainland China, both legal and illegal in origin, propagated in large part by New York's high density, extensive mass transit system, and huge economic marketplace.

The early settlers of Manhattan's Chinatown were mostly from Taishan and Hong Kong of the Guangdong Province of China, which are the Cantonese speakers and also from Shanghai.[42] They formed most of the Chinese population of the area surrounded by Mott and Canal Streets.[42] The later settlers, from Fuzhou, Fujian, form the Chinese population of the area bounded by East Broadway.[42] Chinatown's modern borders are roughly Grand Street on the north, Broadway on the west, Chrystie Street on the east, and East Broadway to the south.[42]


Main article: Chinatowns in Queens
The Elmhurst Chinatown (唐人街, 艾姆赫斯特) on Broadway, a satellite of Flushing Chinatown.

The Flushing Chinatown, in the Flushing area of the borough of Queens in New York City, is one of the largest and fastest growing ethnic Chinese enclaves outside of Asia, as well as within New York City itself. Main Street and the area to its west, particularly along Roosevelt Avenue, have become the primary nexus of Flushing Chinatown. However, Chinatown continues to expand southeastward along Kissena Boulevard and northward beyond Northern Boulevard. In the 1970s, a Chinese community established a foothold in the neighborhood of Flushing, whose demographic constituency had been predominantly non-Hispanic white and Japanese. Taiwanese began the surge of immigration, followed by other groups of Chinese. By 1990, Asians constituted 41% of the population of the core area of Flushing, with Chinese in turn representing 41% of the Asian population.[43] However, ethnic Chinese are constituting an increasingly dominant proportion of the Asian population as well as of the overall population in Flushing and its Chinatown. A 1986 estimate by the Flushing Chinese Business Association approximated 60,000 Chinese in Flushing alone.[44] Mandarin Chinese (including Northeastern Mandarin), Fuzhou dialect, Min Nan Fujianese, Wu Chinese, Beijing dialect, Wenzhounese, Shanghainese, Cantonese, Taiwanese, and English are all prevalently spoken in Flushing Chinatown. Even the relatively obscure Dongbei style of cuisine indigenous to Northeast China is now available in Flushing Chinatown.[45] Given its rapidly growing status, the Flushing Chinatown may surpass in size and population the original New York City Chinatown in the borough of Manhattan within a few years, and it is debatable whether this has already happened.

Elmhurst, another neighborhood in the borough of Queens, also has a large and growing Chinese community.[46][47] Previously a small area with Chinese shops on Broadway between 81st Street and Cornish Avenue, this newly evolved second Chinatown in Queens has now expanded to 45th Avenue and Whitney Avenue. Newer Chinatowns are emerging in Corona and Whitestone, Queens.


By 1988, 90% of the storefronts on Eighth Avenue in the Sunset Park, in southern Brooklyn, had been abandoned. Chinese immigrants then moved into this area, not only new arrivals from China, but also members of Manhattan's Chinatown, seeking refuge from high rents, who fled to the cheap property costs and rents of Sunset Park and formed what the website of the local branch of the Chinese Benevolent Association has called "the Brooklyn Chinatown",[48] which now extends for 20 blocks along 8th Avenue, from 42nd to 62nd Streets. This relatively new but rapidly growing Chinatown located in Sunset Park, Brooklyn was originally settled by Cantonese immigrants like Manhattan's Chinatown in the past. However, in the recent decade, an influx of Fuzhou immigrants has been pouring into Brooklyn's Chinatown and supplanting the Cantonese at a significantly higher rate than in Manhattan's Chinatown, and Brooklyn Chinatown is now home to mostly Fuzhou immigrants. In the past, during the 1980s and 1990s, the majority of newly arriving Fuzhou immigrants were settling within Manhattan's Chinatown, and the first Little Fuzhou community emerged in New York City within Manhattan's Chinatown; by the 2000s, however, the epicenter of the massive Fuzhou influx had shifted to Brooklyn Chinatown, which is now home to the fastest growing and perhaps largest Fuzhou population in New York City. Unlike the Little Fuzhou in the Manhattan Chinatown, which remains surrounded by areas which continue to house significant populations of Cantonese, all of Brooklyn's Chinatown is swiftly consolidating into New York City's new Little Fuzhou. However, a growing community of Wenzhounese immigrants from China's Zhejiang Province is now also arriving in Brooklyn Chinatown.[49] Also in contrast to Manhattan's Chinatown, which still successfully continues to carry a large Cantonese population and retain the large Cantonese community established decades ago in the western section of Manhattan's Chinatown, where Cantonese residents have a communal gathering venue to shop, work, and socialize, Brooklyn Chinatown is very quickly losing its Cantonese community identity.[50] Newer Chinatowns are emerging around Avenue U and Bensonhurst in Brooklyn.



Cleveland's Chinatown (renamed Asiatown in 2006)[51] is one of several ethnic communities within the city proper, along with Little Italy and Slavic Village. The neighborhood is centered on St. Clair, Superior, and Payne Avenues just east of the central business district. The area also falls into the district limits of the Quadrangle which includes several colleges and mid-rise offices and light industrial areas.


Oklahoma City[edit]

Oklahoma City had a historic Chinatown located in Downtown Oklahoma City, in tunnels under what is now the Cox Convention Center. The area was inhabited by the first Chinese immigrants who came to the area via the railroad around the 1950s.



There is a Chinatown, on NW 4th Ave. just north of W Burnside St., in the Old Town Chinatown district of Portland. It is not very active and contains no actual Chinese markets. Unfortunately, many storefronts have remained abandoned for some time and not many Chinese restaurants remain. Some of the restaurants are the historic chop suey restaurant, Good Taste which serves Cantonese BBQ and noodle soups, Golden Horse which serves a variety of dishes but specializes in seafood dishes, Fong Chong which serves dim-sum, and House of Louie which also serves dim-sum and other Chinese dishes. The Republic Cafe is reported to be the oldest Chinese restaurant in Portland. The building of the Portland chapter of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association still remains in Chinatown and it is open to the public. Unlike other Chinatowns in other cities, the population of Chinatown has not been renewed by later waves of immigration.

The Portland Classical Chinese Garden, located on NW 3rd Ave. and NW Everett St., is also a major feature in Chinatown. It was designed by artisans from Suzhou, China.

Given the expensive rents and tourist orientation of Chinatown and following the dual Chinatown pattern as present in several major metropolitan areas of the Americas, the thoroughfare of SE 82nd Ave. in Montavilla neighborhood of Portland is home to the city's newer Chinese business district, already with immigrant-oriented markets, Chinese seafood restaurants, and Vietnamese noodle eateries. It has been already picked up by the media as a "new Chinatown". The Montavilla area has moderate crime problems.[52]


Built in 1922, Pittsburgh


There is a Chinatown centered on 10th and Race Streets in Philadelphia. Over the years, several blocks were lost to the Pennsylvania Convention Center, and the Vine Street Expressway. For the past few years, city officials have restricted redevelopment in Chinatown, particularly as a result of efforts by a coalition of grassroots groups (pan-ethnic, labor groups) working together to preserve Chinatown. Today the lost blocks have been regained by the expansion of Chinatown to Arch Street and north of Vine Street. Asian restaurants, funeral homes, and grocery stores are common sights. Philadelphia's Chinatown residents are mostly of Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, and Cambodian peoples. Korean, Japanese, and Filipinos are also residents. Chinatown contains a mixture of businesses and organizations owned by the pan-Chinese diaspora, as Mainland Chinese, Vietnamese Chinese, Hong Kong Chinese, and Malaysian Chinese residing in the Philadelphia area call Chinatown home.


Main article: Chinatown, Pittsburgh

A now defunct Chinatown was located on Grant Street and Boulevard of the Allies in Pittsburgh, where two Chinese restaurants remain. The On Leong Society was located there. The Chinese population in Pittsburgh has grown recently as newer stores exist on Penn Avenue near 18th Street in the Strip District. Chinese live in various neighborhoods throughout the city and suburbs.

Puerto Rico[edit]

Chinese people have lived in Puerto Rico since the 19th century. There is no Chinatown in Puerto Rico, but Chinese people and their culture have a notable presence in cities such as Bayamon, Caguas, San Lorenzo and other towns.

Rhode Island[edit]


Main article: Chinatown, Providence

Providence had its own Chinatown which is now defunct.[53]



Main article: Chinatown, Houston

Yet another example of the new-Chinatown/old-Chinatown contrast is Houston, where there is an old and largely disappearing Chinatown near the Convention Center on Chartres Street and McKinney Street in Downtown Houston.

Chinatown in eastern downtown retains a few restaurants but no habitations. To reverse the decline of Chinatown in Downtown Houston, business leaders have attempted to lure tourists as plans have been drawn up to develop a Chinese paifang on McKinney Street as its entryway.

The first businesses of the new Houston Chinatown opened in 1983. The new Chinatown began to expand in the 1990s when Houston-area Asian American entrepreneurs moved their businesses from older neighborhoods, in a search for more inexpensive properties and lower crime rates (at the time). Houston's new Chinatown is about 12 miles (19 km) southwest of Downtown Houston. It is over 6 square miles (16 km2), making it among the largest automobile-centric Chinatowns in the United States.

El Paso[edit]

Archaeological work has been done to uncover the long history of El Paso's Chinatown, which stood from 1881 to around the 1920s. The area is significant in that it attracted a large number of Chinese workers to the American Southwest, and a Chinatown sprung up there.


Dallas proper has no notable districts with significant concentrations of Chinese people or businesses. In recent years, however, a considerable, newly emerging suburban Chinese enclave can be found on North Greenville Avenue, just north of the old downtown in Richardson, Texas. Richardson is itself an inner suburb of Dallas, and the development of a Chinatown here reflects the broadly dispersed and generally suburban Chinese population of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.



Main article: Chinatown, Seattle

Seattle's current Chinese neighborhood came into being around 1910 when much of the former Chinatown along Washington Street was condemned for street construction. The Chinese population began rebuilding along King Street, south of Seattle's Nihonmachi. Chinese investors pooled their resources to build several substantial buildings to house businesses, organizations and residences, such as the East Kong Yick Building.

In the 1950s Seattle officials designated Chinatown as part of the International District (I.D.) due to the diverse Asian population that, by then, included Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, and Koreans. By the late 1970s, Vietnamese immigrants also formed a Little Saigon next to Chinatown, within the ID.

There has been some controversy over the name "International District." Some local Chinese Americans reject the term, preferring the historic designation "Chinatown" for the area as a source of pride. Others, especially American born generations of Asians, accept the ID designation as more appropriate due to their embrace of a more "pan-Asian" identity. Subsequently, the city redesignated the area the Chinatown-International District.


Olympia's small Chinatown is no longer extant. It formed initially on Fourth Avenue near Capital Way, not long after Olympia was founded. It moved in the 1880s to Fifth Avenue and then to Water Street in the 1910s. The remaining buildings were razed in 1943 after the last few residents departed. The city placed an historical marker at the site of Olympia's last Chinatown at the north end of Capitol Lake in 2004.


A fair sized Chinatown existed in Spokane for years that started when the railroad came through in 1883. It consisted of a network of alleys between Front Avenue (today's Spokane Falls Boulevard) and Main Avenue that stretched east from Howard Avenue to Bernard Street about four blocks. The Chinese population gradually thinned out until the alley became practically abandoned by the 1940s. All the remains of Chinatown were demolished for parking for Spokane's Expo '74.


There was also a significant historic Chinatown located in Downtown Tacoma. In November 1885 disgruntled whites drove out the Chinese population and burned down Chinatown. Recently, a special remembrance garden called the Chinese Reconciliation Park has been built a short distance away.[54]

Gallery of photographs[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

  • American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, Bonnie Tsui, 2009 ISBN 978-1-4165-5723-4 Official website
  • Chinatowns: Towns Within Cities in Canada, David Chuenyan Lai, 1988
  • The First Suburban Chinatown: The Remaking of Monterey Park, California, Timothy P. Fong, 1994
  • San Gabriel Valley Asian Influx Alters Life in Suburbia Series: Asian Impact (1 of 2 articles), Mark Arax, Los Angeles Times, 1987

External links[edit]