National Register of Historic Places in Sacramento County, California

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National Register #90000484
Chinese-American Historic District
Bounded by River Road, Tyler Street, Bridge Street, C Street
Walnut Grove

Established as a steamer stop in 1851 by John W. Sharp, Walnut Grove is located in the Sacramento River Delta. In the late 1860s, hundreds of Chinese laborers laid off from railroad construction or leaving the gold mines, went to work building levees and farming the reclaimed land.

On land rented from local owners Sperry and Dye, an Asian community was established to serve hundreds of local workers. Although laborers were generally boarded in barracks near their job sites, they would typically visit towns on their one day off, making use of the business enterprises. Through 1915 this community was composed of both people from Chungshan and Sze Yup provinces in southern China Businesses operating in town included dry goods and grocery stores, shoe stores, fish and meat markets, saloons, gambling halls, boarding houses, herbal shops, a temple, barber shops and baths, and other businesses.

In 1915 a major fire broke out in the Chinatown, leveling eighty buildings in the three-block area. This fire resulted in radical changes in the makeup of the community.

First, the Japanese people, then residing within the Chinese American community, took the opportunity to physically separate themselves by establishing their own "Japantown" one block north of the Chinese district.

Second, those businessmen originating from the Chungshan province moved one mile north of Walnut Grove, joining three of their fellow Chungshan countrymen who had already established businesses on the land to serve laborers in a nearby cannery. Augmented by the Walnut Grove Chungshan population, this small settlement became the thriving Chinese town of Locke.

Finally, the Sze Yup people remained on the site of the destroyed Chinatown, rebuilding their former community as a replica of the town that had been destroyed in the fire.

Walnut Grove continued to prosper following the 1915 fire. During the 1920s the Chinese American community had a reputation as being wide open with gambling, opium dens, and brothels. The Chinese American community consisted primarily of bachelors or married men whose families were in China. There were very few family groups in the community prior to World War II.

Aided by the influx of Filipino labors during the 1920s, the three-block section contained over sixty buildings and had nine gambling halls, six grocery stores, four restaurants, and three barbershops. Other businesses included fish, shoe, plumbing, laundry, and tailor shops, hardware, dry goods, and general merchandise stores, a Chinese school, temple, and benevolent society headquarters. In addition to the businesses, there were 28 houses used to board laborers who came into town to live during the winter season.

Although the transient farm laborer population declined somewhat during the Depression, the permanent Asian population of Walnut Grove prospered in the early 1930s. In 1926 the Isleton Chinatown burned down, destroying all buildings and personal property. While the town rebuilt, some of the residents moved into Walnut Grove.

Courtland's Chinese American community also suffered from fire in 1930. Unlike Isleton, the people from Courtland were unable to rent land to rebuild their community and the majority moved into Walnut Grove, adding to the population spurt of the early 1930s.

In 1937 a second fire broke out in the Chinese American section of Walnut Grove, decimating the community, and again destroying over eighty buildings within a three-block area. This conflagration killed four laborers and left over 500 people homeless

Rebuilding efforts began immediately. Three of the gambling halls were rebuilt and remained in operation until the 1950s. By rebuilding their community, Walnut Grove became the last Chinatown established in the Delta after nearly seventy years of Chinese American residency. It was the only Chinese American community to use stucco and Art Moderne/Modernistic architectural styles, adapted through the use of lighting, geometric pattering, and Chinese elements, to reflect specific Asian preferences.

Adapted from the NRHP nomination submitted in 1990.

This forty-acre district contains twenty-one contributing buildings and eight noncontributing buildings.

Name Year Address Remarks Sort Address Sort Name
Stage Depot191614132 Market StreetOne of two structures to survive the 1937 fire.Market 14132Stage Depot
Pumphouse193814134 Market StreetOriginally a gambling hall.Market 14134Pumphouse
Bing Kong Tong Building193714136 Market StreetThe social center for Chinatown.Market 14136Bing Kong Tong Building
Suen Building193714138 Market StreetMarket 14138Suen Building
Restaurant193814157 Market StreetMarket 14157Restaurant
Barber Shop193714153 Market StreetMarket 14153Barber Shop
Soda Fountain193714151 Market StreetMarket 14151Soda Fountain
Grocery Store193714147 Market StreetArt moderneMarket 14147Grocery Store
Gambling Parlor193714135 Market StreetMarket 14135Gambling Parlor
Grocery Store193714133 Market StreetMarket 14133Grocery Store
Residence19371260 C Street Street C 1260Residence
Residence193714140 Dye StreetArt moderneDye 14140Residence
Residence193814142 Dye StreetArt moderneDye 14142Residence
Residence193714162 Dye StreetArt moderneDye 14162Residence
Garage193814161 Dye StreetDye 14161Garage
Residence194014157 Dye StreetDye 14157Residence
Residence193714137 Dye StreetSome art moderne elementsDye 14137Residence
Residence192714137 Tyler StreetSurvived the 1937 fireTyler 14137Residence
Residence193714161 Tyler StreetTyler 14161Residence
East Indian Store193714161 Tyler StreetTyler 14161East Indian Store
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