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1900-Era Chinatown Dug Up in San Jose

May 31, 1999|Associated Press

SAN JOSE — Archeologists have unearthed evidence of a turn-of-the-century Chinatown.

City records, newspaper accounts and fire insurance maps suggest the existence of a Chinese community in the area, but no traces had been found until crews prepared for construction on a freeway extension.

Excavations began in April but were kept secret to prevent looting. By Friday, the site was covered by dirt again after artifacts were removed.

The excavation revealed brick foundations of buildings, asphalt streets and a then-state-of-the-art sewer system. A treasure trove of artifacts was found, including an oil lamp, brown stoneware jars for soy sauce and liquor, and glassware.

"Artifacts are mute. It's what we extrapolate from them that tells the story," said Mark Hylkema, an archeologist for the California Department of Transportation, which is in charge of the site.

The community was known as Woolen Mills Chinatown, an eight-block village of 350 to 400 people--mostly men--on the eastern bank of the Guadalupe River. They lived there from 1887 to 1902 until a fire destroyed most of the buildings.

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