The Gentrification of L.A.’s Secret Old Chinatown – California News

The Gentrification of L.A.’s Secret Old Chinatown – California News

Friday, August 11, 2017 at 6:19 a.m.

A wedding at New Moon, 1990

Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library

On the surface, Los Angeles’ Chinatown seems to be just like other historical Chinatown, such as those in San Francisco, New York and others that were founded in the 19th century and have survived to this day. But Los Angeles is unique in one major respect: Its current Chinatown dates only from the 1930s and effectively began as a movie set–esque ethnic theme park for tourists, with very few Chinese people actually living in the area.

Yes, Los Angeles did have a vibrant late–19th century/early–20th century downtown Chinatown, but it was leveled in 1933 to make way for Union Station. While civic do-gooders thought they were providing two nearby replacements for the historic old Chinatown in the form of New Chinatown on North Broadway and China City on North Spring, by the time these projects were completed in the late 1930s, virtually all of the Chinese residents had moved out of the immediate area. It wasn’t until more than three decades later, in the late 1960s, that federal immigration law reform repopulated Los Angeles Chinatown with Chinese residents.

City Market, 1948

City Market, 1948

Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library

So does this mean that Los Angeles did not have a real Chinatown from the 1930s to the 1960s? Well, yes and no. If your definition of Chinatown is a place for tourists to mingle with everyday Chinese-Americans in their natural habitat, the answer is no, because New Chinatown and China City were primarily tourist attractions, and almost all of the Chinese who worked at the shops and…

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