The Oldest "Chinatown" in the U.S. Still Stands Strong After 175 Years
Chinatowns across the country were formed from the mid-19th to the early 20th century and acted as a safe haven for Chinese immigrants. Chinatown is a large concentration of Chinese people outside Greater China, typically in a section of a large city. It’s a place where people can shop for familiar foods, attend traditional temples, and commune with people who speak the same language and have the same culture. Chinatowns have been part of American cities for over a hundred years. Discover the oldest Chinatown in the U.S. that still stands strong after more than 175 years and learn about its attractions.
What is the Oldest Chinatown in the US?
Established in 1848, San Francisco Chinatown is the oldest in the United States, thriving for more than 175 years. Chinatown in San Francisco is centered on Stockton Street and Grant Avenue in San Francisco, California. Not only is it the oldest Chinatown in America, but it is also the oldest in North America and one of the largest in the world outside of Asia. Chinatown is one of the top attractions in San Francisco, where visitors can learn more about American Chinese culture and history while shopping for unique items and dining on delicious cuisine. Visitors can take tours through the town and stay in local hotels close to all of the best attractions.
San Francisco Chinatown Early History
The location of the current Chinatown was the port of entry for Chinese immigrants in the 1850s. These early Chinese immigrants were primarily from the Guangdong province of Southern China, and they settled near Portsmouth Square, around Grant Avenue, which was once called Dupont Street. The settlement began growing in the 1850s with the opening of Chinese shops, most of which were centered on Dupont Street. It was the only area within the city where Chinese people were able to inherit dwellings.
The Best Things to Do and See in San Francisco Chinatown
Whether you’re a San Francisco native or a visitor from another country, Chinatown in San Francisco is a must-see destination in California, especially if you’re a history buff or want to feel like you’ve stepped into Hong Kong.
Chinatown is very dense and walkable, which is the best way to explore the area. Take in all of the sights, including the interesting markets, bustling alleys, and delicious food stands. For a starting point, check out Dragon’s Gate on Grant Avenue at the town’s southern end. It was designed in 1870 by Clayton Lee, a Chinese-American architect.
If you’re a tea drinker, you must check out the Red Blossom Tea Company, a family-owned teahouse that serves rare Chinese and Taiwanese teas. Afterward, head over to the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory adorned with hanging red lanterns out front. The factory has been operating since 1962, cranking out fresh fortune cookies for local restaurants. Along with these unique cookies, you can buy tea and personalized fortunes.
Where is the Second Oldest Chinatown in North America?
The second oldest Chinatown in North America is in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Victoria Chinatown was established in the mid-nineteenth century after a surge of Chinese miners from California came to British Columbia during the discovery of gold in Fraser Canyon. Eventually, people began coming to Victoria directly from China once news began to spread. Later when construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway began, more Chinese workers would settle into Victoria’s Chinatown.
This Chinatown is revitalized and a popular area for tourists in the city. With its many historic buildings, hotels, bars, and shopping areas, Victoria Chinatown is a must-visit part of the city.
Where is the Biggest Chinatown in the US?
The Manhattan Chinatown is one of the biggest in the world and features the highest concentration of Chinese people in the Western Hemisphere. Around 1870, Chinese immigrants came to Lower Manhattan, New York, looking for opportunities in this foreign land. The Chinatown in Manhattan is one of nine in New York City. This Chinatown was historically populated by Cantonese spreaders, but many Fuzhounese-speaking people began inhabiting the area in the 1980s and 1990s. While there are no definitive borders to define Manhattan Chinatown, there are several streets that make up the area, such as sections of Hester, Grand, Worth, Essex, and Lafayette Streets.
How Many Chinatowns Are in America?
Starting with San Francisco, Chinatowns have been part of America for more than 175 years. Many major metropolitans in the country have vibrant districts dedicated to Chinese workers and families. While many of them are tourist destinations, they are still important areas for Chinese immigrants and their families. There are more than 50 Chinatowns spread across America, including San Francisco, New York City, Boston, Chicago, and more.