This is our 4th annual Asian Pacific American theme travel article. Interesting enough, the first place I am going to suggest is one that I started off with back in June of 2005. For those that may not remember or may not have read the article, the lead to the 2005 article was about the Chinese Temple Museum in the town of Oroville, California.
Have a look at all of our past ideas (2005, 2006, and 2007) and come back and have fun reading our interesting 2008 summer suggests.
Oroville Chinese Temple
With great pride, I am happy to be writing about a new development with the Oroville Chinese Temple that is directly connected to my family and its history. The Oroville Chinese Temple has added a new room, model on my grandparents' store. Although I can't take credit for the creation of this new part of the temple, its not often that the surrounding of ones past gets turned into a museum.
When I first heard about this development, I was sadden and a bit disappointed that my grandparents' house/store called Fong Lee was being sold and that the interior was going to be gutted and moved. The original building is on the National Register of Historic Places and although I never lived in that house it was my ancestral home here in America. In a town where I sometimes felt like an outsider (being a Chinese person in a town with very few Asians), I used to feel some satisfaction in knowing that I could trace my roots back some 130 years in that town. When the house was still owned by our family, it felt like I could still claim to be a part of Oroville.
With no one living in my grandparents' house and the building in complete disrepair, my uncle worked out a deal with the city and temple managers to have much of the key elements of my grandparents' store preserved in a new room added to the Oroville Temple Museum. After seeing the end results, I am glad he did it. Now people for years to come will be able to go to the temple and see what I had long known, that my family was a part of Oroville and California history.
Things that you will find in the new Fong Lee room include the original full set of Chinese herbal medicine drawers and cabinets from the store, the store's cash register, window, light fixtures, and fan, and a history display of the Chan Family in Oroville.
For more information check out these links -
City of Oroville's website on the temple
Contents of the Oroville Chinese Temple on display
Stedman-Thomas Historical District in Ketchikan, AK
Ah, the "bridge to nowhere" was actually planned to go to a somewhere and that somewhere is Kecthikan, Alaska. Back in 2005, when a massive federal transportation bill was passed, critics pointed out many "pork barrel" spending projects contained within the bill. The bridge project from Ketchikan to its airport on a near by island was particularly scrutinized and tagged as the "bridge to nowhere." It didn't seem to make sense to apportion $223 million to build a bridge for a town of approximately 7,600 people.
What critics and the media didn't explain was that Ketchikan regularly receives thousands of visitors each year, with its airport serving 200,000 people annually.
One of the reasons why Ketchikan gets so many visitors is because of its historic Stedman-Thomas historic waterfront district. Ketchikan was home to a vibrant fishing industry during the first half of the 20th Century. As one of the major fishing ports in the southeastern coast of Alaska, Ketchikan drew a very diverse group of workers. Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, Koreans, and Pacific Islanders all came to work and stay in Ketchikan. Asian Americans owned most of Stedman-Thomas' first businesses, which included eateries, hotels, and grocery stores. The Japanese community even built a meeting house and children's Japanese language school. The Filipino community had its own community center too.
Although the fishing industry has diminished and the Japanese community was hit hard by the force removal to World War II internment camps, many of the original builds and shops still stand and serve Kitchikan's thriving tourist industry. If you plan on going to Alaska, make sure you include Ketchikan on your itinerary.
For more information -
Wikipedia's article on the Bridge to Nowhere
National Park Service's website on Stedman-Thomas Historical District
Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
Fort Vancouver National Historic Site is also the location of Kanaka Village. Established along with the fort in 1829, Kanaka Village or Town was one of the largest pre-gold rush settlements in the west between Sitka, Alaska and San Francisco. Because of the large Hawaiian population, the town got its name from the Native Hawaiian word for "person."
Located at present day Vancouver Washington, Fort Vancouver/Kanaka Village was the headquarters of the British Hudson's Bay Company's West Coast operations. It primary initial business, which was the fur trade, employed a wide variety of people that included Hawaiians, French Canadians, Portuguese, Scottish, Irish, English, and Native Americans.
Pacific Islanders, along with Filipinos, and Chinese were often crewmembers and workers of European expeditions along the Pacific Rim and around the world. Hawaiians in particular came with the British to the Pacific Northwest. Kanaka Village is one of the establishments located in what is now part of the Continental United States and is evidence of Pacific Islander's involvement with early American History.
Another interesting chapter in the history at Fort Vancouver was the arrival of three shipwrecked Japanese sailors in 1834. Otokichi, Kyukichi, and Iwakichi had left Nagoya, Japan in October 1832 and were destined for Tokyo. Their ship was damaged in a storm and they remained adrift for 14 months. When the three landed near Cape Flattery, Washington, Native Americans took them in and eventually traded them to the people at Fort Vancouver. Otokichi, Kyukichi, and Iwakichi are the earliest recorded visitors to what is now the Continental United State.
John McLoughlin, the leader at Fort Vancouver, found passage to London for the three castaways. The three eventually made their way back to Asia and became the first recorded Japanese to circumnavigate the Earth.
For more information -
National Park Service's website on Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
Specific pages on the NPS's website pertaining to the Kanaka Villiage
Informational brochure on the Japanese Castaways
El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park
If you are in the Santa Barbara area and decide to visit the local mission, pay your respects to Antonio Miranda Rodriguez who is listed as one of the founding residents of Los Angeles. Antonio Miranda Rodriguez, a Filipino Mexican (California was still part of Mexico then), left Los Angeles in 1783, and settled and spent the rest of his life in Santa Barbara. He is buried at the Santa Barbara Presidio Chapel and his name is on a wall plaque list of those interred at the church.
Antonio Miranda Rodriguez is proof that Asians were among the earliest non-indigenous residents of California.
For more information -
El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park's website
Information on Antonio Miranda Rodriguez