Chinatown in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Civil War to Civil Rights
—Downtown Heritage Trail —
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 of 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 and its 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 the first immigrants settled along Pennsylvania Avenue between Third and Sixth Streets. Forced out by construction of the Federal Triangle in the 1930s, the community relocated here with the help of the On Leong Chinese Merchants Association into homes once occupied by an earlier German and Jewish immigrant population. Some of the city's oldest pre-Civil War buildings, with flat roofs
While many Chinese 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 on Eighth and H, the first to create a Chinese Sunday School here, is still involved with the community, and St. Mary's Catholic Church near Fifth and H, has regular Masses in Cantonese. Chineses symbols and signs preserve the spirit of this special place and the annual Chinese New Year is celebrated with a dragon parade and firecrackers to increasingly large crowds from the metropolitan area.
Erected 2008 by Cultural Tourism D.C. (Marker Number e.10.)
Marker series. This marker is included in the Civil War to Civil Rights marker series.
Location. 38° 53.978′ N, 77° 1.321′ W. Marker is in Chinatown, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is on 7th Street, NW just south of H Street, NW, on the right when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Washington DC 20001, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Friendship Archway (within shouting distance of this marker); The Northern Baptist Convention Mary Surratt's Boarding House (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); "Surratt Boarding House" (about 500 feet away); The Daguerre Monument (about 700 feet away); a different marker also named The Daguerre Monument (about 700 feet away); Patent Office Building (approx. 0.2 miles away); Mary Church Terrell (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Chinatown.
More about this marker. In the upper right of the marker, below the picture of Abraham Lincoln, is a picture of the On Leong Chinese Merchants Association building. It is captioned: "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 518 Eighth Street, now a Chinese restaurant."
The large picture in the center is identified as, "The community celebrates Chinese New Year."
Drawings on the bottom right indicate that, "Behind the Chinese decorations in this neighborhood can be found the 19th-century building styles of an earlier residential community."
Federal Style-Early Nineteenth Century,
Italianate Style-Mid Nineteenth Century, and
Queen Anne Style-Late Nineteenth Century.
Related marker. Click here for another marker that is related to this marker. To better understand the relationship, study each marker in the order shown.
Also see . . . Chinatown, Washington, D.C. (Submitted on October 18, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
Additional keywords. Chinese-Americans
Categories. • Asian Americans • Churches, Etc. • Fraternal or Sororal Organizations • Settlements & Settlers •
Credits. This page was last revised on August 15, 2017. This page originally submitted on October 18, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 2,436 times since then and 214 times this year. Last updated on January 27, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. Photos: 1. submitted on October 18, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. 2. submitted on September 25, 2016, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico. 3. submitted on October 18, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. 4, 5, 6. submitted on January 17, 2017, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. 7, 8. submitted on January 24, 2017, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. 9. submitted on October 18, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. • Kevin W. was the editor who published this page.