Thursday, March 27, 2014

I'm not sure if it is true, if it matters. But, in any case, people of Chinese descent have had a long history on one particular block of downtown

This letter to the editor (actually just one passage of it) in Olympia Power and Light bothers me more than it should:

Columbia Heights Partners LLC, a Chinese backed company...
 Backed by the Chinese? Why does that matter? Is it the implied xenophobia that matters to me? Probably.

Yes, the major investors behind the project have Chinese names, but live in Washington.

The person seemingly managing the project was born in China, but went to school in North Carolina and is an American citizen.

But, now in terms of who builds what downtown, we're concerned about what country they come from?

Especially when the Chinese connection to that particular block of downtown runs way deeper than I assume the letter writer knows. If there's one particular block of Olympia where people with Chinese names should build, its that one.

Ed Echtle, as always:
As downtown expanded in the late 1880s, Chinese relocated their businesses to the corner of Fifth Avenue and Columbia Streets, on what was then the waterfront.  Five two-story wood frame buildings, housing the Hong Yek Kee Company, the Quong Yuen Sang Company and the Hong Hai Company were built on piles over tide flats.
Here's a couple other views of the block, where you can see the layout of Chinese businesses on the block where now a group of Chinese-American businessman want to build a new building:

1888, mostly down on 4th Avenue, ironically where the New Moon Cafe is located.

And now, just one labelled "old Chinese" in 1896 on the southwest corner of the current parking lot:

By the way, these maps are Sanborn maps and are available online at the Timberland Regional Library.

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