Chinatowns in the United States
Cover of sheet music, published in 1910
|Alternative Chinese name|
|Second alternative Chinese name|
This article contains a list of the Chinatowns, which are either officially designated neighborhoods or historically important in the United States. Historically speaking, many of these Chinatowns were formed in the 1800s and have served as ethnic enclaves.
- 1 History
- 2 Demographics
- 3 Arizona
- 4 California
- 5 Colorado
- 6 District of Columbia
- 7 Hawaii
- 8 Illinois
- 9 Louisiana
- 10 Maryland
- 11 Massachusetts
- 12 Michigan
- 13 Missouri
- 14 Montana
- 15 New Jersey
- 16 New York
- 17 Ohio
- 18 Oregon
- 19 Pennsylvania
- 20 Rhode Island
- 21 Texas
- 22 Utah
- 23 Washington
- 24 Wyoming
- 25 References
- 26 Further reading
- 27 External links
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 DC, 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.
The significant timeline is as follows:
- 1840s–1860s – Many initial Chinatowns developed in the west spurred by the California Gold Rush and the Transcontinental railroad, such as San Francisco's Chinatown.
- 1863 – Emancipation Proclamation opens up new opportunities for Chinese in the Southern United States
- 1860s, 1870s, 1880s – racial tensions, labor tensions, leads to incidents such as the Rock Springs Massacre
- 1882–1943 – Chinese Exclusion Act was in effect, banning Chinese immigration into the United States.
- 1943 – Repeal of Chinese Exclusion Act, Chinatown populations start to rise again.
- 1970s – end of Vietnam War
- 2010s – Downturn of US. economy, China economy rises, causes reverse migration, and decay of Chinatowns
Historically, most Chinatowns started as enclaves of ethnic Chinese people. Many of these Chinatowns have experienced gentrification as the demographics shifted. While some Chinatowns have retained their status as the ethnic Chinese enclave, many of them have lost that status. 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:
- New York City (486,463; 522,619 as of 2012)
- San Francisco (172,181)
- Los Angeles (66,782)
- San Jose (63,434)
- Chicago (43,228)
Phoenix, Arizona once had a Chinatown that was started in the 1870s and lasted until the 1940s with the general population scattering throughout the city thereafter. Sources from a research project indicated that more than one Chinatown existed in the city of Phoenix, with one around First Street and Madison and a second at First and Adams Street in the present location of the Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Given its relative proximity to East Asia and Southeast Asia, California has the largest number of Chinese among the American states, 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.
The Sacramento River delta town of Locke was built in 1915 as a distinct rural Chinese enclave. A thriving agricultural community in the early 20th century, it is now largely uninhabited by Chinese-Americans. A historic district of 50 wood-frame buildings along Main Street, Key Street and River Road was designated a historic district in 1990.
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.
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 of 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.
Throughout the early 1840s and 1850s, China was at war with Great Britain and France in the First and Second Opium Wars. The wars, along with endemic poverty in China, helped drive many Chinese immigrants to America. Many first came to San Francisco, which was then the largest city in California, which was known as "Dai Fow" (The Big City) and some came eventually to Sacramento (then the second-largest city in California), which is known as "Yee Fow" (Second City). Many of these immigrants came in hopes for a better life as well as the possibility of finding gold in the foothills east of Sacramento.
Sacramento's Chinatown was located on "I" Street from Second to Sixth Streets. At the time this area of "I" Street was considered a health hazard as, lying within a levee zone it was lower than other parts of the city which were situated on higher land. Throughout Sacramento's Chinatown history there were fires, acts of discrimination, and prejudicial legislation such as the Chinese Exclusion Act that was not repealed until 1943. The mysterious fires were thought to be set off by those who did not take a liking to the Chinese working class. Ordinances on what was viable building material were set into place to try to get the Chinese to move out. Newspapers such as The Sacramento Union, at the time, wrote stories that portrayed the Chinese in an unfavorable light to inspire ethnic discrimination and drive the Chinese away. As the years passed, a railroad was created over parts of the Chinatown and further politics and laws would make it even harder for Chinese workers to sustain a living in Sacramento. While the east side of the country fought for higher wages and fewer working hours, many cities in the western United States wanted the Chinese out because of the belief that they were stealing jobs from the white working class.
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.
The first, and one of the largest, most prominent and highly visited Chinatowns in the Americas is San Francisco's Chinatown. Founded in 1848, 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. For many years a center of tong wars and later gang activism, Chinatown is now much safer than it was in years past. 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.
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, as well as a fortune cookie factory. Ross Alley used to have brothels, but they no longer exist. Also within the confines of Chinatown is the Woh Hei Yuen Recreation Center and Park on Powell Street.
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. San Francisco's Chinatown is also the birthplace of chop suey and many other dishes of American Chinese cuisine.
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, Though Chinatown remains the cultural and symbolic anchor of the Bay Area Chinese community, increasing numbers of Chinese-Americans do not live there, instead residing in Chinese enclaves in the Richmond and Sunset districts, or elsewhere in the Bay Area.
San Jose was home to five Chinatowns that existed until the 1930s. The initial Chinatowns in San Jose were frequently burned down by arson, with artifacts from May 1887 recently discovered around the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, which is located at 560 South 1st Street. Another Chinatown was excavated during an urban renewal project to build the Fairmont Hotel and Silicon Valley Financial Center on Market and San Fernando Streets. According to another article, this Chinatown was also known as the "Plaza Street Chinatown", which grew rapidly from the 1860s to the 1870s and was home to "... several hundred Chinese." According to this article, the area at the time was subject to controversy as many whites often complained to the city council about the area as "bothersome". By 1870, the area was burned to the ground with many Chinese evicted from the area as the anti-Chinese public sentiment grew.
Later in history, John Heinlen, a farmer and businessman, planned a six block Chinatown with brick structures with water and pipes in the area of Sixth Street and Cleveland Street in 1887, to the dismay of the non-Chinese public and caused public outrage. The area was then known as "Heinlenville" and contained a variety of merchants, barbers, traditional doctors, and Chinese herbal medicine. and the Ng Shing Gung temple. The area was surrounded by Little Italy and co-existed harmoniously, but then dwindled in the 1920s as the younger generations sought careers outside the area and with a lack of new Chinese coming in due to the Chinese Exclusion Act, the area lost almost all of its Chinese population. Some artifacts from this Chinatown are now located in Kelley Park. At the time, an existing Japantown nearby was evacuated due to the war, but was repopulated after the internment of the Japanese-Americans.
Stockton, California is home to a small Chinatown on Chung Wah Lane, East Market Street and East Washington Street. In 1906, Stockton's Chinatown "... had the largest Chinatown in California with over 5,000 inhabitants..." due in large part to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake that caused a "... swelling [of] the Chinese population in Stockton."
On Lock Sam, the city's oldest restaurant was 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.
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. The city council has designated the China Alley Historic Area a Point of Interest in the downtown business district.
Chinatown in Denver, Colorado, was a neighborhood on Wazee Street in what is now the "LoDo section of the city...." The first recorded Chinese person was of a man from southern China named "John" dated June 29, 1869, as documented by the Colorado Tribune.
It was also referred to as "Hop Alley" and it was torn apart by riots in the 1880s. A St. Louis newspaper dated November 1, 1880 documented the complete destruction of the neighborhood as "Chinatown Gutted by Murderous Scoundrels".
District of Columbia
Chinatown in Washington, D.C. is a, small, historic neighborhood east of downtown consisting of about 20 ethnic Chinese and other Asian restaurants and small businesses along H and I Streets between 5th and 8th Streets, Northwest. It is known for its annual Chinese New Year festival and parade and the Friendship Arch, a Chinese gate built over H Street at 7th Street. Other nearby prominent landmarks include the Verizon Center, a sports and entertainment arena, and the Old Patent Office Building, which houses two of the Smithsonian Museums. The neighborhood is served by the Gallery Place-Chinatown station of the Washington Metro.
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.
The Chinatown in Chicago is a traditional urban ethnic enclave, occupying a large portion of the Armour Square region on the city's near south side. The intersection of Wentworth Avenue at Cermak Road is the neighborhood's historic epicenter. Chinatown has historically been dominated by Chinese-American commercial interests, though in recent years, large-scale construction of residential developments, particularly east of Canal Streets and the area adjacent Ping Tom Park south of W.18th Street, have exponentially increased the number of residents in the area. While it is a cultural tourist attraction for visitors, Chinatown also attracts Chinese emigrants hailing from China as a gateway neighborhood. The annual Chinese New Year and Chinese Double Ten Day Parade are both held in Chinatown.
New Orleans was once home to one of the largest Chinatowns in the Southern United States. The first significant migration of Chinese to Louisiana took place during Reconstruction after the American Civil War, between 1867 and 1871, when local planters imported hundreds of Cantonese contract laborers from Cuba, California, and directly from China as a low-cost replacement for slave labor. By the mid-1870s, nearly all of these laborers had abandoned the plantations and migrated to the cities of the South, especially New Orleans, in search of higher pay and better working conditions. They were followed by Chinese merchants from California and other states, who supplied the laborers, imported tea and other luxury goods to the Port of Orleans, and exported cotton and dried shrimp to China.
By the 1880s, these merchants had developed a small Chinatown on the 1100 block of Tulane Avenue, between Elk Place and South Rampart Street, near the modern Tulane stop on the North Rampart Streetcar line. Though much smaller than the Chinatowns of the West Coast or the industrial cities of the north, New Orleans Chinatown was the site of several dry goods groceries, import/export companies, apothecaries, restaurants, laundries, and the meeting halls of several Chinese associations. Chinatown continued to exist for six decades, until its destruction by WPA re-development in 1937, during the Great Depression. Several office towers stand on the site of the former Tulane Avenue Chinatown. A few Chinese businesses attempted to build a second Chinatown on the 500-block of Bourbon Street, but this smaller Chinatown also died out over the next thirty years. Today, only the former meeting hall of the On Leong Merchants Association still remains on 530 Bourbon Street.
Baltimore, Maryland was home to a small Chinatown. Historically, Baltimore had at least two districts that were called "Chinatown" where the first one existed on the 200 block of Marion Street ring the 1880s. A second and current location is at the 300 block of Park Ave., which was dominated by laundries and restaurants. The initial Chinese population came because of the transcontinental railroad, however, the Chinese population never exceeded 400 as of 1941. During segregation, Chinese children were classified as "white" and went to the white schools. Chinatown was largely gone by the First World War due to urban renewal. Though Chinatown was largely spared from the riots of the 1960s, most of the Chinese residents moved to the suburbs. As of 2009, the area still shows signs of blight and does not have a Chinese arch.
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 third largest Chinatown in the United States.
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 gentrification. High-rise luxury residential towers are built in and surrounding the area that was overwhelmingly three, four, and five-story small apartment buildings intermixed with retail and light-industrial spaces.
Detroit's Chinatown was originally located at Third Avenue, Porter St and Bagley St, now the permanent site of the MGM Grand Casino. 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. However, Detroit's urban decline and escalating street violence, primarily the killing of restaurateur 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, a small community center, serves a handful of new Chinese immigrants who still reside in the Cass Corridor.
Chinatown in St. Louis, Missouri, was a Chinatown near Downtown St. Louis that existed from 1869 until its demolition for Busch Memorial Stadium in 1966. Also called Hop Alley, it was bounded by Seventh, Tenth, Walnut and Chestnut streets. The first Chinese immigrant to St. Louis was Alla Lee, born in Ningbo near Shanghai, who arrived in the city in 1857. Lee remained the only Chinese immigrant until 1869, when a group of about 250 immigrants (mostly men) arrived seeking factory work. In January 1870, another group of Chinese immigrants arrived, including some women. By 1900, the immigrant population of St. Louis Chinatown had settled at between 300 and 400. Chinatown established itself as the home to Chinese hand laundries, which in turn represented more than half of the city's laundry facilities. Other businesses included groceries, restaurants, tea shops, barber shops, and opium dens. Between 1958 and the mid-1960s, Chinatown was condemned and demolished for urban renewal and to make space for Busch Memorial Stadium.
The history of Chinese in Montana closely ties with the building of the Northern Pacific Railroad in the 1860s in many cities and towns including Butte, Big Timber, and other places. An archaeological find uncovered remnants of laundromats and other architectures relating to the Chinese culture. According to another article, Montana had as many as 1,949 Chinese lived in Montana Territory out of a population of 20,000 in the 1870s. Today, one of the few reminders of Chinese society in Montana is the Chinese New Year parade that is held at the Mai Wah Museum in Butte.
At the end of the 19th century, many Chinese people called Big Timber, Montana home. According to the Billings Gazette, Chinese artifacts dating from the late 1800s to the 1930s were found. The artifacts showed that "... Chinese restaurants, laundries and even a house of prostitution did business in the southcentral Montana town." Justin Moschelle, a Master's student at the University of Montana took up an archaeological investigation in the summer of 2008 and uncovered bits and fragments of the once existent Chinatown. Built in the 1880s, "... the city block bounded by Anderson, First, Mcleod, and Front streets became the unofficial Chinatown of Big Timber." The article further clarifies that the Chinese history within this Montana town was nearly wiped out with vandals destroying graves and any remaining relics of this community. It wasn't until 2008 that the discovery was made where the town of Big Timber and the state of Montana nearly lost all traces of any presence of Chinese society. According to the findings, the last Chinese left during the 1930s, "... presumably to larger Chinese settlements in California or even back to China. All that remains of the Chinese presence in Big Timber, is a handful of artifacts and stories of Chinese tunnels and the opium trade."
The Chinatown and the history of the Chinese migrants in Butte is documented in the Mai Wah Museum. Due to the mining boom in Butte, many Chinese workers moved in and set up businesses that led to the creation of a Chinatown. There was anti-Chinese sentiment in the 1870s and onwards due to racism on the part of the white settlers, exacerbated by economic depression, and in 1895, the chamber of commerce and labor unions started a boycott of Chinese owned businesses. The business owners fought back by suing the unions and winning. The decline of Butte's Chinatown that started in 1895 and continued until only 92 Chinese people remained by 1940 in the entire city. After that, the influence the Chinese had on the area was largely gone as they moved out one by one.
Cedar Creek, Montana (location referenced in the Battle of Cedar Creek, Montana Territory) was also home to a Chinatown. During an excavation project in 1995 to prove the presence of Chinese in the area, the initial findings did not show much. However, a 2007 finding uncovered "...fascinating information about the Cedar Creek Chinese population" and the University of Montana and the United States Forest Service plan to do additional work to trace back to a potentially lost part of Montana's Chinese history.
Helena, Montana was at one time home to a Chinatown at Reeder's Alley according to the Helena's Ghost Walk tourist attraction. According to another source, Reeder's Alley, as the area was referred to, bordered a "... thriving Chinatown" which completely vanished by the 1970s. Due to some efforts to preserve the historical aspects of the buildings, the area was spared from complete demolishment, and is fixed up as part of the museum. According to the 1880 US Census, Helena's Chinatown had a Chinese population of 1,765, of which 359 of them were living in the metropolitan area. At that time, this Chinatown was the largest in the state of Montana.
Newark's Chinatown was an unincorporated community and neighborhood within the city of Newark in Essex County, New Jersey, United States. It was an ethnic enclave with a large percentage of Chinese immigrants, centered along Market Street from 1875 and remaining on some scale for nearly one hundred years. The center of the neighborhood was directly east of the Government Center neighborhood. The first Chinese businesses appeared in Newark in the second half of the 19th century and in the early part of the 20th century. By the 1920s, the small area had a Chinese population of over 3000.
In 1910, a small lane with housing and shopping was built called Mulberry Arcade, connecting Mulberry Street and Columbia Street between Lafayette and Green Streets. In the 1920s, recurring federal opium raids disrupted the community, causing many to move to more peaceful places. Despite an attempt to revive the neighborhood decades later, the Mulberry Arcade (the center of Chinatown) was removed in the 1950s.
New York City
The New York metropolitan area contains the largest ethnic Chinese population outside of Asia, enumerating 735,019 individuals as of 2012, including at least 12 Chinatowns - six (or nine, including the emerging Chinatowns in Corona and Whitestone, Queens, and East Harlem, Manhattan) in New York City proper, and one each in Nassau County, Long Island; Edison, New Jersey; 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. By 1880, the enclave around Five Points was estimated to have from 200 to as many as 1,100 members. 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. 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. 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.
The Manhattan Chinatown (simplified Chinese: 纽约华埠 ; traditional Chinese: 紐約華埠; pinyin: Niŭyuē Huá Bù), home to the largest enclave 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. 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. They formed most of the Chinese population of the area surrounded by Mott and Canal Streets. The later settlers, from Fuzhou, Fujian, form the Chinese population of the area bounded by East Broadway. 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.
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.
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. 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. 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. 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", 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.
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. Within Brooklyn, newer satellite Chinatowns are emerging around Avenue U and Bensonhurst, as well as in Bay Ridge, Borough Park, Coney Island, Dyker Heights, Gravesend, and Marine Rark. While the foreign-born Chinese population in New York City jumped 35 percent between 2000 and 2013, to 353,000 from about 262,000, the foreign-born Chinese population in Brooklyn increased 49 percent during the same period, to 128,000 from 86,000, according to The New York Times.
Cleveland, Ohio's Chinatown is an ethnic neighborhood established in the late nineteenth century. A majority of Chinese Ohioans lived in northeastern Ohio, where they worked in factories or established their own businesses to provide their fellow Chinese Americans with traditional Chinese products. For most of the second half of the nineteenth century, Cleveland, which had the largest Chinese-American population in Ohio, boasted fewer than one hundred Chinese residents. By World War II, the city's Chinese population increased to almost nine hundred. With the communist takeover of China in the late 1940s, an increase in Chinese immigration occurred to the United States, including to Ohio. Most of these new migrants came from Hong Kong or Taiwan, areas that escaped communism but their residents still feared the ideology's expansion.
At the start of the twenty-first century, a small number of Chinese people continued to come to Ohio each year. By 1980, six thousand Cleveland residents claimed Chinese ancestry. The first Chinese people to come to Cleveland arrived in the mid nineteenth century. They settled along Ontario Street, where they established Chinatown. For most of its history, Cleveland's Chinatown consisted of only one city block and contained several Chinese restaurants, laundries, and specialty stores. Initially, most Chinese in Cleveland lived in Chinatown to surround themselves with people of similar cultural beliefs and also to escape the animosity of Cleveland's other residents. Over time, especially by the 1960s, many Chinese Clevelanders began to move into new neighborhoods, as Cleveland's other residents became more tolerant of the Chinese.
Old Town Chinatown is the official Chinatown of the Northwest section of Portland, Oregon. The Willamette River forms its eastern boundary, separating it from the Lloyd District and the Kerns and Buckman neighborhoods. It includes the Portland Skidmore/Old Town Historic District and the Portland New Chinatown/Japantown Historic District, which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In the Northwest section, NW Broadway forms the western boundary, separating the neighborhood from the Pearl District, and W Burnside St. forms the southern boundary, separating it from Downtown Portland. In the Southwest section, the neighborhood extends from SW 3rd Ave. east to the river and from SW Stark St. north to W Burnside St. with the exception of areas south of SW Pine St. and west of SW 2nd Ave, and south of SW Oak St. and west of SW 1st Ave., which are part of Downtown.
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 descent. 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.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was home to a "small, but busy" Chinatown, located at the intersection of Grant Street and Boulevard of the Allies where only two Chinese restaurants remain. The On Leong Society was located there. According to the article, "... the first Chinese community in Pittsburgh developed around Wylie Avenue above Court Place," according to a 1942 newsletter of the American Service Institute of Allegheny County. The Chinatown spread to Grant Street, and then "... to Water Street and then spread out to Second and Third avenues." By the 1950s, the Chinese community had exited the neighborhood, leaving this Chinatown extinct today.
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.
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.
The first businesses of the East Downtown Chinatown were opened by Cantonese Chinese immigrants in the 1930s. It continued to grow in subsequent decades until many of its businesses relocated to Houston's new Chinatown. There have been attempts by business leaders to reverse the decline of Chinatown in East Downtown, but many new residents have sought to rebrand the area to reflect the current cultural shift.
The new Houston Chinatown in Southwest Houston can trace its beginnings to several businesses that opened in 1983. The new Chinatown began to expand in the 1990s when many 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. Some local officials have tried to change the name of the new Chinatown to "Asia Town" due to many different ethnic groups having a presence there.
Salt Lake City
Historically, Salt Lake City, Utah had a Chinatown that was located in a section called "Plum Alley" that contained a Chinese population that worked in the mining camps and the transcontinental railroad. The first Chinese peoples came in the 1860s and had formed a historical Chinatown in a section called "Plum Alley" on Second South Street which lasted until 1952. The area had a network of laundromats, restaurants and oriental specialty shops.
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.
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 abandoned by the 1940s. All the remains of Chinatown were demolished for parking for Spokane's Expo '74.
In the 1880s, Spokane had a "bustling Chinatown" which was as big as three to four blocks "... stretching from Howard Street to Bernard Street ..." along Spokane Falls Blvd. It earned the nickname "Japanese Alley" or "Trent Alley". More sources said that the Chinatown swelled even more during the Franklin Delano Roosevelt era with the internment of Asian peoples due to the war against Japan. An old newspaper article shows that an annual convention for the Chinese Hip Sing organization was held in 1924.
Tacoma, Washington was once home to a significant historic Chinatown in Downtown Tacoma near Railroad Street. In November 1885 disgruntled whites drove out the Chinese population and burned down Chinatown. According to a historical account, many who were driven out fled to Portland, Oregon or Canada. Two days after the Chinese were driven out, Tacoma's Chinatown was burned to the ground. According to another source, as many as six hundred Chinese were dragged out to the street in a raid and escorted to the train station.
The Rock Springs, Wyoming was the largest of the three Chinatowns in Wyoming. This community was also located seven miles north of Evanston's Chinatown. It was the site of the infamous Rock Springs Massacre, in which many Chinese died.
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