Chinatown Archaeological Site, The Dalles
- Dates of Significance: 1865-1930
- Address: 200 block E. First Street
- Designation: Located within National Register historic district
News and Updates
January 19, 2014
Preservation Magazine features Chinatown
July 24, 2013
May 1, 2013
March 13, 2013
Opium Pipe Bowl found at The Dalles Chinatown Site
The Dalles Chinatown is a highly significant archaeological site located on the south side of East First Street between Washington and Court Streets. The site may be the best preserved, and most extensive, historic ethnic urban archeological site in the state. It has a rich and unique story to tell with two extant buildings and an undisturbed deposit of below-ground archaeological resources that tell the story of the Chinese experience in Oregon.
Historic photo at 1st and Washington in The Dalles
As The Dalles began to emerge as a commercial center for river and overland traffic in the 1850s, the 200 block of E First Street was home to some of the community’s first buildings. As the city grew, the block was rapidly developed with hotels, saloons, restaurants, barbershops, dry goods stores, shoe shops, grocers, cigar stores, and liquor shops. Following the construction of the transcontinental railroad down First Street, the one-block site rapidly transformed into a tight-knit Chinatown.
By the late 1880s, Chinatown provided goods and services to the local community and the migrant Chinese population. Some of the merchants and residents became well-known and respected members of the community, however their are largely missing from the history books. By the early 1900s, The Dalles’ Chinese population was on the decline, and by the late 1920s many of the buildings in Chinatown had become vacant.
The Chinatown site today retains two original buildings: the much-altered Bloch, Miller and Company Building (1865) and the Chew Kee and Company Building (1879). The remainder of the site is capped by surface parking.
Why it’s Endangered
The Dalles Urban Renewal Agency owns the Chinatown site with the exception of the Chew Kee and Company Building. In 2012, a proposal to build a five-story hotel on the eastern half of the block began raising questions about architectural compatibility, district character, and protection of archaeological resources. In April, the Urban Renewal Agency entered into an agreement with a private developer to construct a hotel and conference center on the site, but designs and a plan for interpreting Chinatown’s history have yet to be shared. The Bloch, Miller and Company Building is not protected by the local preservation ordinance and adequate interpretation of archaeological resources hinges on the will of project stakeholders.
Our Near-term Goals
The proposed hotel development could bring needed redevelopment and fill in some of Chinatown’s missing teeth along E First Street. Restore Oregon will advocate that the development be designed to support the historic character of the district, help tell the story of Chinatown, and include mitigation of the archeological artifacts.