Old Chinatown

By 1870, an identifiable "Chinatown" of two hundred or so inhabitants was situated on Calle de Los Negros - Street of the Dark Hued Ones - a short alley fifty feet wide and one block long between El Pueblo Plaza and Old Arcadia Street. These early, mostly male Chinese residents worked as laundrymen, market gardeners, agricultural and ranch workers, and road builders. Built on segregated covenant land near the train tracks, Los Angeles' first Chinatown eventually became home to more than three thousand Chinese. Given the lack of social services and political representation available to the sojourners, Old Chinatown was by necessity a tightly knit community, surviving through family networks with close ties to homeland China and the many benevolent societies that arose in the early years.

Map of Old Chinatown along Alameda Street, prior to the construction of Union Station. | Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

The intersection of Alameda and Marchessault Street, in the heart of Old Chinatown. | Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

Exterior of two earlier constructions in Chinatown. On the shorter building hangs a banner that reads "A Los Cultos Espanoles." | Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

A horse and carriage parks in front of D.W. Davis Groceries and Provisions store.  Constructed in 1886, the same building eventually housed Little Joe's restaurant, a fixture on North Broadway still prominent today, although empty since 1997. | Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

Early adobe buildings on Aliso Street, on the southern outskirt of Old Chinatown. | Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

A Chinatown resident reads a billboard of papers written in Chinese. | Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

Captured in 1927, residents watch from their balcony as cars crowd the streets during the Sacco-Vanzetti protest. | Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

Phillip and Andrew Lum, Chinese American residents and brothers, pose for the camera in 1910. | Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

A fish vendor sells fresh fish to a Chinatown local from the back of his truck. | Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

The Quon Sang Employment Office next to Sam Sing Butcher Shop in the Los Angeles Plaza, circa early 1900s. | Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

Portrait of a Chinese woman in traditional costume. The first Chinatown population consisted primarily of male laborers, kept separate from their families under the constrictions of early Immigration laws. | Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

First-generation Chinese Americans Po and Wing, dressed in traditional Chinese clothing.  | Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

Participants wait alongside the Chinese dragon as the Fiesta parade sets to begin.  | Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

A man looks through a window next to a barber shop along Alameda Street.  | Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

Bird's eye view of the Los Angeles and Marchessault Street intersection. The Dragon's Den, a Chinese restaurant, is in the Fook Wo Long Curio Company building on the corner.  | Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

A large crowd gathers to watch the dragon curl through town in the 1890's Fiesta parade.  | Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

Chinese New Year celebration with a dragon parade in Old Chinatown. | Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

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