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San Jose in Santa Clara County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)
 

The Burning of San Jose Chinatown

May 4, 1887

 
 
The Burning of San Jose Chinatown Marker image. Click for full size.
By Jordan Yee AKA "Ranger Yee", circa December 2009
1. The Burning of San Jose Chinatown Marker
Inscription.
In Memory of
The Burning of San Jose Chinatown
May 4, 1887

On this site on May 4, 1887 a mysterious fire, deliberately set, destroyed San Jose's Chinatown. This was the largest Chinatown South of San Francisco. A community of bachelors and of families, these early Chinese Pioneers were instrumental in developing the economy of Santa Clara county.
Dedicated May 4, 1987.

 
Erected 1987.
 
Location. 37° 19.95′ N, 121° 53.352′ W. Marker is in San Jose, California, in Santa Clara County. Marker is at the intersection of Paseo De San Antonio and South Market Street on Paseo De San Antonio. Touch for map. Marker is mounted on the southwest corner of the Fairmont Hotel. Marker is in this post office area: San Jose CA 95113, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Chinatown (a few steps from this marker); First State Capital (a few steps from this marker); First State Capitol Building (within shouting distance of this marker); The Freedom Tree (within shouting distance of this marker); Plaza de Cesar E. Chavez
The Burning of San Jose Chinatown Marker image. Click for full size.
By Jordan Yee AKA "Ranger Yee", circa December 29
2. The Burning of San Jose Chinatown Marker
This marker is mounted on the S.W. corner of the Fairmount Hotel Building.
(about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); United States Post Office (about 400 feet away); Site of Worlds First Broadcasting Station / World’s First Broadcasting Station (about 600 feet away); Herrold Radio Broadcasting Station (about 600 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in San Jose.
 
More about this marker. This marker is located about 15 feet from San Jose History Walk marker Number 2 which interprets the flourishing Chinatown that ran along Market Street.
 
Also see . . .
1. Chinese Historical and Cultural Project. Information on the study of the Woolen Mills, Chinatown. (Submitted on January 5, 2010.) 

2. Market Street Chinatown Archaeological Project. The Stanford University study and documentation of artifacts found at the site. (Submitted on January 5, 2010.) 

3. Early Development of the Santa Clara Valley. A detailed history of the Chinese settlements in Santa Clara Valley. (Submitted on January 5, 2010.) 
 
Additional comments.
1. Historical background to the burning
The writer Jean Pfaelzer in her book "Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese" reveals how the Chinese in San Jose's Chinatown were not passive victims but proactive actors fighting to preserve home and hearth.

On page 237 she writes

"...in 1883 Chinatown had organized its own volunteer fire department., equipped with ladders and buckets, and rehearsed its fire brigades. But at three o'clock on the afternoon of May 4, 1887, most of the Chinese had gone to a gambling house to hear the announcement of the lottery winner. No one was there to witness the arson in Ah Toy alley....the San Jose Evening News reported, "with superhuman efforts" the city's Alert Hose Fire Company "saved the ground on which Chinatown was located and prevented the spread of fire to the surrounding buildings"....Even aided by the mayor and some city councilmen, the Chinese fire brigade was unable to check the flames because someone had drained the Chinese water tank. It was not by chance that during the two weeks preceding the blaze prominent white business owners in Chinatown had added heavily to their fire insurance."
    — Submitted January 5, 2010, by Jordan Yee AKA "Ranger Yee" of Fremont, California.

 
Additional keywords. Asian Americans Chinese Americans Ethnic Enclaves
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on January 4, 2010, by Jordan Yee AKA "Ranger Yee" of Fremont, California. This page has been viewed 2,766 times since then and 120 times this year. Last updated on January 5, 2010, by Jordan Yee AKA "Ranger Yee" of Fremont, California. Photos:   1. submitted on January 4, 2010, by Jordan Yee AKA "Ranger Yee" of Fremont, California.   2. submitted on January 5, 2010, by Jordan Yee AKA "Ranger Yee" of Fremont, California. • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page.
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