Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Pittsburgh's Chinatown granted State Historical Marker.

Pittsburgh's Chinatown neighborhood was recently granted a state historical marker by the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission. From the March 10 press release:
Pittsburgh Chinatown, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County
Established as early as the 1870s, Chinatown was the cultural and economic center of the Chinese community in western Pennsylvania that served Chinese populations in New York, Ohio and West Virginia. The growth of the community was suppressed by political and labor efforts leading to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The community was destroyed by the construction of the Boulevard of the Allies in the 1920s and its residents and businesses were displaced. Remnants remained until 1959.
Also among the 23 newest markers is recognition of the region's first Chinese immigrants:
The first substantial workforce of Chinese immigrants in Pennsylvania came to Beaver Falls in 1872. The workers were recruited to the Beaver Falls Cutlery Factory to replace white laborers on strike. They remained for several years learning specialized skills and assuring profitability for the company because of their reduced wages. Across the nation, other American labor unions and politicians felt these Chinese workers were a threat and advocated for the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, which remained in effect until 1943.
Local communities had been working for many years to have the site recognized, as detailed in a 2019 Pittsburgh Magazine article:
On three occasions, the OCA has attempted to earn a state historical marker for Pittsburgh’s Chinatown. But the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission has denied each request, citing a lack of statewide historical significance, Lien says. After the third denial, applicants must wait three years before applying again; those three years are up. “We’ve been waiting patiently,” she says.

In re-applying, the OCA will emphasize Chinatown’s enterprise. “It became so significant a spot that it wasn’t just for the Chinese in Pittsburgh,” Lien says. Chinese Americans traveled from other parts of Pennsylvania and even from West Virginia and Ohio to access the commercial space.

From a July 27, 1959 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article.

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