22 June, 2009

A Visit to Chinatown Los Angeles-My World Today


On a sunny Saturday on June 25, 1938, California's Governor Merriam and a host of dignitaries dedicated Los Angeles Chinatown's Central Plaza in a gala Grand Opening ceremony. One of the Nation's first malls and certainly the first modern American Chinatown, owned and planned from the ground up by Chinese, Central Plaza would provide a magnificent hub and lexus for growth into the famous colorful, vibrant Chinese American community we all know today.


Originally, New Chinatown consisted of many notable restaurants, shops, an herbal store, a grocery store, a bean cake factory, a Chinese deli and offices. In 1938, these long-time establishments were all moved from Los Angeles' Old Chinatown, not quite a mile away. What led to this sudden mass relocation into Los Angeles' Little Italy, and the need for establishing a new Chinatown?

The first Chinese was recorded to be in Los Angeles in 1852. Continuous settlement began in 1857. By 1870, an identifiable "Chinatown" of 200 or so was situated on Calle de Los Negros - Street of the Dark Hued Ones - a short alley 50 feet wide and one block long between El Pueblo Plaza and Old Arcadia Street. These early, mostly male, Chinese were mainly laundrymen, market gardeners, agricultural and ranch workers, and road builders. Despite the heavy discrimination in the late 19th century, Chinese held a dominant economic position in the Los Angeles laundry and produce industries for several years of this period. Consequently, old Chinatown flourished, expanding eastward from the Plaza across Alameda Street and eventually attaining a population of over 3000. The Exclusion Acts inhibited any real growth for many years.


In a typical experience, Chinese became lessees, subleasees or tenants of a major land or property owner, such as Apablasa. Laws prohibited most from citizenship and hence, property ownership. The Chinese densely settled a major part of Old Chinatown on the Juan Apablasa grazing grounds and vineyards, controlled by his old widow. Inability to gain ownership in large measure would have dire consequences later.



Old Chinatown in its heyday, 1890 to 1910, could count 15 or so streets and alleys, and perhaps 200 building units. It had sufficient size and sophistication to boast of a Chinese opera theater, three temples, a newspaper (for a while), and later, its own telephone exchange. Old Chinatown was a residential as well as commercial community. The slow increase in the number of women would lead to the establishment of families with children. During this time, most of today's leading Chinese family and district associations, Chinatown institutions were founded, and church missions were organized, which began the process of community acculturation. Old Chinatown, with restaurants, curio shops, and "strange" entertainments, even became an attraction for the early, pioneering breed of American tourist.



Reprinted from The Los Angeles Chinatown 50th Year Guidebook, June 1988: The Golden Years of Los Angeles Chinatown: The Beginning by Suellen Cheng and Munson Kwok, Chinese Historical Society of Southern California

I visited my favorite shops and restaurant and bakery last week while in Los Angeles. I so miss this part of my native State.

Please stop by and visit the MY WORLD MEME hosted by the fab team of Klaus | Sandy | Ivar | Wren | Fishing Guy| Louise. We had over 100 visitors last week.

39 comments:

Daryl said...

Fabulous shots .. and its just as I remember it tho I havent been to LA in a long long time

Euroangel said...

beautiful shots! thanks for sharing! I was in LA last year but not in Chinatown. I just remember when we were in Universal Studio, CA, an Asian man approached us and asked where is Chinatown..he would be happy if he was there last time...have a great day!

Ebie said...

Hi Erin, did you check out the cheap and tasty and filling dimsum restaurants? I have a few favorite places, the ABC and CBS. At lunch time we usually "dine" and take the DASH and be back in one hour and a half. Glad you enjoyed your stay here!

Tess said...

I want to visit LA. These photos are beautiful and thanks for sharing some history here. Nice post!

Gaelyn said...

Great post and captures Erin. Haven't been to any China town in a very long town. Love the bright colors and food.

Also really like your new masthead.

Louise said...

How interesting about the history, the photos are wonderful. They are soft and bright and well-composed. A very nice post that makes me want to go for a visit!

Sylvia K said...

Fantastic shots and thanks so much for the history of Chinatown as well. Very interesting! What colorful look at your world today!

nadia said...

What an interesting story to go with those beautiful and colorful pictures! Thank you so much for sharing your part of the world, Erin.

PS: Just out of curiosity, what might those "strange" entertainments be?

Carver said...

You got some great shots and this was a very interesting post.

SandyCarlson said...

These are dreamy, to say the least. So vibrant and inviting.

Guy D said...

Excellent shots, thanks for sharing.

Have a great week
Guy
Regina In Pictures

Island Rambles Blog said...

Thanks so much for visiting my site and leaving a nice note..I really love the colors of chinatown and your photos are stunning, I want to go there now.

Arija said...

A very nice post with beautiful photos and god historical information.

W too have large Chinese settlements from the gold rush days.

ewok1993 said...

very informative. i love visiting chinatowns of places i go and visit. the food is good and there's plenty to see even if one is not so inclined to buy. oh there's plenty to photograph too.

Esther Garvi said...

Wonderful shots! The last two are my favourite! No Chinatown to compare with in Niger but my favourite Chinese restaurant EVER is in Kano!

James said...

Great photos of a very interesting place. I can't believe that I never went there.

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

Great pictures and fascinating history.

irene said...

Your pictures have an ethereal feel. Thanks so much for such an informative post Erin.

marcia@joyismygoal said...

mmmm interesting and such a bright burst of red

alicesg said...

Wow your chinatown looked so beautiful. I love going to our chinatown too, I can get the stuff I needed to cook my cantonese soup...lol

fishing guy said...

Erin: That is a neat place to visit in California.

Janie said...

Interesting history of old and new Chinatown. Great photos, too.

antigoni said...

Great place. I love the colours of the buildings.

Wolynski said...

Wonderful photos. The Chinese were used extensively to build the railroads, as they were very adept with the dynamite. And they hardly ever fell sick, because they boiled their water for tea. And then they got mistreated for all their toil...

Wren said...

It looks lovely in these pictures - all dressed up with a necklace of lanterns. I've been to LA, but don't remember China town specifically. On the list for next time :)

Pam said...

I certainly am glad you took this road, it is lined with magnificent views, which you captured beautifully...

Karen said...

Lovely captures !!

Interesting information about the origins of LA's Chinatown. I've been there once and loved it..

Luiz Ramos said...

Beautiful World. I remember Chinatown in cinema.

Snap said...

Wonderful shots and thanks for the history. Chinatown here is new and modern -- doesn't have the historical feel of LA's.

Lew said...

It is nice to go home again! Visiting old haunts always brings back memories. Thanks for your commnet on the helicopter. I also though fire and looked for smoke rising. We are on the other side of a hill from the farm that was being worked and could not see the helicopter until I drove to the top with a view.

VALKYRIEN said...

So different from the world I am used to - and so beautiful! And your shots are amazing! As they always are!

Thanks for stopping by!

Lantaw said...

great post processing as always!

magiceye said...

bright and beautiful

Jedediah said...

Interesting posts and really lovely photos.

2sweetnsaxy said...

Great shots. They really captured the feel of China town. I haven't been through there in a very long time.

Merisi said...

Very colorful and festive images,
I never knew there was such a large Chinatown in LA! I learned a lot today, thank you! :-)

MedaM said...

Beautiful and informative and interesting post! Your photos are colorful and well composed as always.

Pearl Maple said...

Fantastic photos, thanks for sharing these colourful views with us all.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Beautiful photography, Erin, and fascinating information about Chinatown, too.

Have a wonderful weekend, my friend.

~Lisa