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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Chinatown in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Chinatown

Civil War to Civil Rights

 

—Downtown Heritage Trail —

 
Chinatown Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Jones, March 8, 2019
1. Chinatown Marker
Inscription.  dragons to bring rain,
prosperity,
and friendship


More than 280 dragons, crowned by 700 glazed tiles, look down from the Chinatown Friendship Archway before you. Symbols of the spirits that bring rain and prosperity in China, these painted and carved dragons are fitted together like a giant jigsaw puzzle in the ancient Chinese building tradition of "gong" balancing. Seven roofs weighing nine tons each are cantilevered, with no nails, almost 50 feet above the street.

This is the largest single-span Chinese archway in the world, designed by Chinese-born Washington architect Alfred Liu and erected in 1986. A joint project of the governments of Washington, D.C. and its Chinese sister city, Beijing, it marks the entrance to Washington's Chinatown in a statement of international friendship. Chinese and American craftsmen worked side by side to construct it.

The Chinese community in Washington dates back to the 1880s, when immigrants settled along Pennsylvania Avenue between Third and Sixth Streets, N.W. Forced out by construction of the Federal Triangle in the 1930s, the community relocated here with
Chinatown Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Jones, March 8, 2019
2. Chinatown Marker
the help of the On Leong Chinese Merchants Association. They moved into homes once occupied by German Christian and Eastern European Jewish immigrants. Some of the city's oldest pre-Civil War buildings, with flat fronts and sloped roofs, can still be seen beneath the neighborhood's colorful Chinese façades.

While many Chinese Americans have left the area for newer homes in the city and suburbs, the community is dedicated to preserving a slice of Chinese culture downtown. Calvary Baptist Church at 8th and H, the first to create a Chinese Sunday School here, is still involved with the community. St. Mary Mother of God Catholic Church near 5th and H has regular Masses in Cantonese. Chinese symbols and signs preserve the spirit of this special place, and residents of the metropolitan area flock to the annual Chinese New Year's dragon parade.
 
Erected by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number e.10.)
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Downtown Heritage Trail marker series.
 
Location. 38° 53.977′ N, 77° 1.322′ W. Marker is in Chinatown, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is on 7th Street Northwest south of H Street Northwest, on the right when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 702 H Street Northwest, Washington DC 20001, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other
Chinatown Marker image. Click for full size.
By J. Makali Bruton, September 24, 2016
3. Chinatown Marker
Note the Friendship Archway in the background.
markers are within walking distance of this marker. A different marker also named Chinatown (was here, next to this marker but has been reported permanently removed. ); Friendship Archway (within shouting distance of this marker); Discover DC / Gallery Place - Chinatown (within shouting distance of this marker); The Northern Baptist Convention (within shouting distance of this marker); Mary Surratt's Boarding House (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); "Surratt Boarding House" (about 500 feet away); Man with Briefcase (about 500 feet away); Lin Han, noodle master (about 600 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Chinatown.
 
More about this marker. This marker replaced a marker with the same name and substantially the same text and photographs that was numbered e.6.
 
Additional keywords. Chinese-Americans
 
Categories. ArchitectureAsian AmericansBridges & ViaductsChurches & Religion
 
Friendship Archway image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, July 14, 2008
4. Friendship Archway
H Street, NW, around the corner from marker.
On Leong Chinese Merchants Assn. image. Click for full size.
5. On Leong Chinese Merchants Assn.
Because of restrictive U.S. Immigration laws, Washington's original Chinese community was all male. The men formed strong organizations, such as the On Leong Chinese Merchants Association, for mutual aid and companionship. The association was housed for many years in this building at 618 H Street.
Close-up of photo on marker
Calvary Baptist Church image. Click for full size.
6. Calvary Baptist Church
Calvary Baptist Church nearby at Eighth and H Streets, as photographed by Matthew Brady just after the Civil War, started the first Chinese Sunday School.
Close-up of photo on marker
The Altar of Calvary Baptist Church image. Click for full size.
7. The Altar of Calvary Baptist Church
decorated for a national celebration.
Close-up of photo on marker
Celebrating Chinese New Year image. Click for full size.
8. Celebrating Chinese New Year
Close-up of photo on marker
Three Styles image. Click for full size.
9. Three Styles
Italianate (Mid Nineteenth Century), Queen Ann (Late Nineteenth Century) and Federal (Early Nineteenth Century)

Behind the Chinese embellishments in this neighborhood can be found the 19th-century building styles of an earlier residential community.
Close-up of images on marker
7th Street, early 1900s image. Click for full size.
Historical Society of Washington D.C, circa 1900
10. 7th Street, early 1900s
The commercial buildings pictured are still standing across the street from marker, amidst new development north of the Verizon Center.
 
More. Search the internet for Chinatown.
 
Credits. This page was last revised on March 24, 2019. This page originally submitted on March 9, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 60 times since then. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on March 9, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.   3. submitted on March 14, 2019, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico.   4. submitted on October 18, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.   5, 6, 7. submitted on January 17, 2017, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland.   8, 9. submitted on January 24, 2017, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland.   10. submitted on October 18, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.
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