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Most people who come to downtown San José have no idea that there was a Chinatown here. In fact, in the 1880s, it was one of the largest Chinatowns in California with over 1,000 residents. The Market Street Chinatown included about twenty tenement (apartment) buildings; dozens of stores; several restaurants and gambling houses; businesses such as barbers, butchers, employment offices, scribes, pharmacists, and doctors; and small-scale workshops producing boots, cigars, dry goods, carriages, and furniture. It also housed a pork roasting furnace, a temple, and a Chinese opera theater. It was a thriving hub for Chinese Americans. By the 1880s, however, an anti-Chinese movement was brewing. Some Californians tried to drive Chinese immigrants out of the United States. San José was actually the site of the first statewide Anti-Chinese Convention in 1886. The next year, the mayor and city council declared the Market Street Chinatown to be a public nuisance. Shortly afterward, on May 4, 1887, an arson fire burned the Market Street Chinatown to the ground. The remains of the Market Street Chinatown lay buried under downtown San José for almost 100 years. During the construction of the Fairmont Hotel and the Silicon Valley Financial Center, archaeologists discovered buried trash pits left from the Chinatown. Archaeologists have considered the artifacts from the Market Street Chinatown site to be the most important collection of Chinese American artifacts in the United States. In 2002, people from Stanford University, Chinese Historical and Cultural Project, History San José, and Environmental Science Associates formed the Market Street Chinatown Archaeology Project. The Project is a collaborative, community-based research and education project. Participants work together to catalog, study, and curate this important collection. This exhibit is part of the Chinese American Historical Museum at the Ng Shing Gung, History Park.

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  • Title: Market Street Chinatown Exhibit Case
  • Date: 1870/1887
  • Location: San Jose (Calif.)
  • Physical Dimensions: Multiple
  • Provenance: Market Street Chinatown Archaeology Project

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