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The Rich History and Evolution of Chinatown, San Francisco

Swapnil Srivastava Nov 28, 2019
Chinatown in San Francisco, is one of the largest and most popular centers of Chinese activity outside China. Know about its history and list of attractions.
Chinatown is located in the heart of the city of San Francisco. It is bordered by Kearny and the Financial District to the East, Powell Street and Nob Hill to the West, Columbus and North Beach to the North, and Bush and Union Square to the South.

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Grant and Stockton are the two main roads of this area, of which the former is lined with all kinds of shops and restaurants. Being the oldest Chinatown, it is always on the list of things to do, when one visits San Francisco.


Chinatown was established in the mid 1800s as a result of large boom in Chinese immigration to the United States.
The city government and private property owners allowed Chinese people to inherit and inhabit dwellings within the city and thus, many shops and restaurants were opened by these immigrants. Many people from China also found jobs in the city, working for large companies. These companies hired them as they provided cheap labor.
In 1870, Anti-Chinese ordinances were passed in San Francisco to curtail their housing and employment options. With massive national unemployment, and increase in the number of racist attacks, tensions in the city boiled over into full-blown race riots.
In 1880, the US and China signed a treaty, giving the US the right to limit but not absolutely prohibit Chinese immigration. However, in 1910, Angel Island Immigration Station was opened to operate as a detention and processing center, as a result of which, many Chinese went under rigorous interrogations by the U.S. immigration officials.
Chinatown got its present look after the 1906 earthquake. The area was completely demolished as a result of earthquake and the powerful people wanted to move its location, so that the area could be absorbed by the richer neighborhoods.

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However, it was rebuilt on its original location as an attraction for the western tourists. Some of the architecture here is not truly Chinese, but the food, culture, and people still continue to bring authenticity back to the area.


It includes authentic markets and fantastic cheap restaurants. One can relish on fabulous dishes in them and purchase imported wares. There are a variety of shady activities that go on in its underground, which include the hot spots for games and a little gambling near the Washington Street Parking.

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Old St. Mary's Cathedral in California, which was built in 1854, is also a major tourist attraction.
Besides that, Portsmouth Square and Chinatown Gateway located at the Grant Avenue and Bush Street intersection; Waverly Place, Spofford Alley, which is lined with various Chinese associations and social clubs are also interesting places to visit.
In addition, Ross Alley, home to the Golden Gate Cookie Factory, can also be visited. Chinatown is famous for its art galleries which include the Kee Fung Ng, Shakris Fine Asian Works of Art, and Stylers Art Gallery. There are many authentic Chinese artworks, sculptures, and crafts in these galleries, and they can be seen as one wanders on the streets.
There are also many fortune cookie factories in this city. Out of these, the Golden Gate Cookie Factory, which was established in 1962, still makes 200,000 cookies a day, the old-fashioned way.
The places of historical interest include Chinese Historical Society, which is located at 965 Clay Street, and the Chinese Culture Center, located at 750 Kearny. Both the places offer extensive information about the events dedicated to preserve the Chinese culture and art. They also offer walking tours, providing information about the area.
This place has its share of special events and festivals, which occur at various times of the year. Most of the events occur during the Chinese New Year, including the Flower Fair, which is held on the weekend before the new year parade.
Chinatown provides the tourists an excellent opportunity to eat, shop, and relish the Chinese culture. Every visitor should bring back souvenirs from the Chinatown Gate on the Grant Street, in order to keep a small part of this wonderful place.