Chinatown, New Orleans

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New Orleans Chinatown
Neighborhood of New Orleans
Coordinates: 29°57′53″N 90°4′14″W / 29.96472°N 90.07056°W / 29.96472; -90.07056
Country  United States
State Louisiana
City New Orleans
ZIP Code 70112
Area code(s) Area code 504

The city of New Orleans, Louisiana was once home to the largest Chinatown in the Southern United States, from the 1880s until its destruction by WPA development in 1937. Today, the site is occupied by the Tulane Medical Center.


Tulane Medical Center now sits where Chinatown once stood

The first significant migration of Chinese into Louisiana took place during Reconstruction after the American Civil War, when local planters imported hundreds of Cantonese contract workers from California as a low-cost alternative to slave labor.[1] The Chinese eventually abandoned the plantations and migrated to the cities, especially New Orleans, in search of higher pay and better working conditions. The 1880 census recorded 95 Chinese in New Orleans.[2] Later in the 1880s, a Chinatown had developed 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.[3] The Chinese came to dominate the laundry industry in 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 serve the growing Chinese population in the region, and to profit from trade at the Port of Orleans.

But in 1937, nearly all of Faubourg Ste. Marie, including Chinatown, was demolished by WPA development to build the modern Central Business District.[4] 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 the French Quarter was still predominantly residential. However, only a few Chinese businesses migrated to the French Quarter Chinatown, which was abandoned in subsequent years.[citation needed] By then, the younger and more highly educated generation of American-born Chinese were abandoning the laundry industry and migrating to suburban eastbank of Jefferson Parish, where much of the city's Chinese population lives today.

Former On Leong Merchant Association Building, 530 Bourbon Street, New Orleans, Louisiana

Today, nearly all traces of the historic New Orleans Chinatown have been obliterated. The last visible marker of New Orleans Chinatown is the On Leong Association's painted sign, over the door of their former meeting hall at 530 Bourbon Street.[5]


  1. ^ Cohen, Lucy (1984). Chinese in the Post-Civil War South. LSU Press. 
  2. ^ Campanella, Richard (4 March 2015). "The lost history of New Orleans' two Chinatowns". (Advance Publications). Retrieved 12 March 2015. 
  3. ^ Campanella, Richard (Fall 2007). "Chinatown New Orleans". Louisiana Cultural Vistas. 
  4. ^ Campanella, Richard (Fall 2007). "Chinatown New Orleans". Louisiana Cultural Vistas. 
  5. ^ Temple, Shao-mei Deng. "Discovering the Forgotten New Orleans Chinese Quarter". Asia Pacific American Society of New Orleans.  "530 Bourbon". Petite Bourbon.