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[TIMELINE] Relocation of San Francisco's Chinatown

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  • madchinaman
    Relocation of Chinatown by Gladys Hansen Curator, Museum of the City of San Francisco http://www.sfmuseum.org/chin/relocate.html After the 1906 earthquake and
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 24, 2006
      Relocation of Chinatown
      by Gladys Hansen
      Curator, Museum of the City of San Francisco

      After the 1906 earthquake and fire, the General Relief Committee
      proposal to gather all Chinese in the temporary camp at the Presidio
      was quickly adopted on April 26, and a committee comprised of
      Abraham "Abe" Ruef; James D. Phelan; Jeremiah Deneen; Dr. James W.
      Ward, president of the Health Commission, and Methodist minister Dr.
      Thomas Filben, chairman, was appointed to take charge of the
      question of the permanent location of the Chinese quarter.
      Chinatown then, as today, occupied some of the most valuable real
      estate in San Francisco, with its sixteen-square-blocks set between
      Nob Hill and the financial center of the West.

      From a strictly political standpoint this was a remarkable committee
      because Abe Ruef and James D. Phelan were arch-enemies. Ex-Mayor
      Phelan had helped spark the graft investigation which would
      ultimately led to Ruef serving time at San Quentin State Prison.
      Ruef was the undisputed "boss" of California, and served as the
      Southern Pacific Railway's political point man in San Francisco.

      Their common ground was abiding racism and hatred for the Chinese.
      It is remarkable to think that within six days of the Great Fire,
      this committee was appointed and had adopted a plan to move
      Chinatown to Hunters Point. The idea was not new. Industrialist John
      Partridge proposed an "Oriental City" at Hunters Point before the
      earthquake, and it had the support of Mayor Schmitz. Telegrams sent
      by the War Department to General Funston, and the pending arrival of
      the Chinese consul-general from Washington, may have also been
      deciding factors in the quick establishment of a committee
      to "assist" the Chinese.

      The Committee on the Location of Chinatown began, with the help of
      General Funston, to concentrate the few Chinese left in San
      Francisco in preparation of moving them to Hunters Point. But more
      politically astute members of the committee were concerned that San
      Francisco, ridding itself of the Chinese, would also lose its
      lucrative Oriental trade.

      With virtually all of Chinatown destroyed, most of its inhabitants
      fled to Oakland, other cities in the East Bay, or huddled in the
      refugee camp at the west end of the Presidio. There were 500
      refugees in that encampment as of April 26. Initial attempts by the
      committee to concentrate Chinese refugees at the Presidio Golf Links
      met with immediate resistance, and the army summarily moved them to
      Fort Point on April 27.

      But the committee apparently did not anticipate stiff resistance
      from the government of China. Chow-Tszchi, first secretary of the
      Chinese Legation at Washington arrived in Oakland within a few days
      of the earthquake and met with Chung Pao Hsi, China's consul-general
      in San Francisco. They, in turn, met with Governor Pardee in
      Oakland, and told him of the Empress-Dowager's displeasure with the
      plan, and that the government of China would rebuild its San
      Francisco consulate in the heart of old Chinatown.

      Stiff resistance from the government of China, and the fear of
      losing trade with the Orient, ended this relocation scheme, and
      rebuilding of Chinatown soon began.
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