Sponsored Ads

Place your ad here


The History of Seattle Chinatown

The first Chinese man to settle in Seattle may have been Chin Chun Hock. Arriving in 1860 he was employed as a domestic worker. By 1868 Chin Hock had founded a general merchandising store, The Wa Chong Co., at the foot of Mill Street. Partners in Wa Chong were Woo Gen and Chin Gee Hee.  Wa Chong advertised itself as a manufacturer of cigars, sugar, tea, rice and opium. It was also a major importer and distributor of fireworks together with the Hitt Firework Co. Chen Cheong may have been the first Chinese immigrant to establish a business. He began manufacturing and selling cigars in 1867 from his contracting business, established 1865 on Commercial St.  (First Ave.) across from Schwabacher Bros.

 Wa  Chong was also a labor contractor, acting as the middleman between Chinese immigrants canneries, lumber mills and farms and for labor on city projects such as the regr looking for work and various industries employing them: railroads, mines,ades. Originally located in a row of commercial shops on Mill Street, the Wa Chong Co. was by 1876 in a brick building at the corner of Third and Washington Streets.

Wa Chong was also a dealer in opium and was issued a special stamp by the U.S. Customs to put on their opium manufactured in Seattle. Other Chinese merchants followed Wa Chong's move to Second Ave. and this area became the first Chinatown. Among the most prominent were Eng Ah Kingand his King Cheong Lung Co.; Woo Gen; Chin Bug Kee and his On Tai Company and ChinGee Hee who founded the Quong Tuck Co.

Chin Gee Hee and the Quong Tuck Co. sold general merchandise, and acted as the general agent for all of the trans-Pacific steamship companies. There was a direct route to China from Seattle established in 1874. Chin was a labor contractor for railroad labor and went back to his home district of Toisan in southern China in 1905 and established one of the first railroads there, the Sun-Ning Railroad.

It is perhaps the only area in the continental United States where Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, African Americans, Vietnamese, Koreans, and Cambodians, settled together and built one neighborhood. In the beginning, sojourners from Asia – mostly single men – came by steamship and rail into the new port city, Seattle, Washington, seeking refuge from poverty and war. They crowded into hotels, storefronts and employment halls which emerged near the railroad station and waterfront. These men came when the city was young to work in the canneries, railroads, and mines.

Many worked in the businesses which grew up around these enterprises – laundries, hotels, restaurants, stores and gambling houses. They lived frugally, finding comfort in familiar surroundings shrouded from the harsh discrimination outside. Those that decided to stay brought wives, children and relatives to live with them..