San Diego Chinese Historical Museum and Asian Pacific Thematic Historic District
Downtown San Diego is home to an eight-block historical district that preserves the history of Chinese Americans and their descendants. At the center of the district is this museum and garden operated by a historical society that dates back to the 1980s. The museum has been open to the public since 1996, offering free tours of the exhibits and garden as well as cultural events and celebrations throughout the year.
Backstory and Context
Like all immigrant communities in America that were held on the margins, many in this community struggled with poverty and its related problems - especially as and police were willing to allow vice districts to develop in immigrant neighborhoods. An area known as the Stingaree became a haven for gambling, prostitution, opium dens, and other types of illegal activities. In an effort to "clean up" the area in preparation for the Panama-California Exposition of 1915, many of the neighborhood's buildings were simply demolished. While the Chinatown neighborhood never entirely disappeared, it had diminished considerably following World War II and the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act.
San Diego's Asian Pacific Thematic Historic District was organized as "Chinatown" in 1987. The district consists of 22 buildings dating from 1883 to 1930. These include the San Diego Chinese Center and the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum. The museum dates to 1996 and is housed in a former Chinese mission which was rescued from demolition and moved from another location to its present address. The museum includes thousands of artifacts and a Chinese-style garden with a gate dedicated to Sun Yat Sen.