The Asian Resource Center is a multi-service facility which houses social service organizations and businesses. The East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC) bought the underutilized warehouse in Oakland Chinatown from the heirs of Harvey B, Lyon, longtime owner of Lyon Storage and Moving, in 1978. After extensive renovations, the facility became the Asian Resource Center in 1984.
The terra cotta clad building was originally built 1922–1923, and is currently home to various nonprofit agencies, retail businesses, medical facilities, and the Asian Resource Art Gallery. The Art Gallery, which is open to the public, is located in the lobby, and highlights local artists to promote cross-cultural exchange through art, culture and educational projects. EBALDC had their offices there until they moved to a new space on San Pablo.
The building is featured on the city's downtown walking tours and the Savor Oakland food tours of Chinatown, and is part of the 10,000 Steps project. The Gothic-design terra cotta exterior features interesting details. The architect who supervised the EBALDC renovation described it as "Flamboyant French Gothic". 2
It was originally constructed by Edward Hebern as a code machine factory, designed by Reed and Corlett. In 1919, Hebern patented a code machine (similar to Arthur Scherbius's Enigma code machine, made famous in WWII), and was so sure of orders he had the $380,000-$400,000 built beginning in 1922 before his new company had any income. He eventually got some orders from the U.S. Navy, but not before the building had been repossessed. 1
According to an article on Medium.com, U.S. cryptanalyst William F. Friedman "broke" the five-rotor Hebern code machine. The U.S. military chose not to tell Hebern, so they could use this secretive knowledge to break similar machines like the Enigma. 5
During WWII, the top floor of the building was used as a factory where women sewed parachutes. Sometime between the end of WWII and 1950, the building was acquired by Lyon Storage and Moving Company and used as a warehouse until it was sold to EBALDC.
On October 16, 1984 the Asian Resource Center was designated an Oakland Landmark under Zoning Case #LM 84-291.
310 - 8th Street, Suite 200, Oakland, California
Links and References
- Edward Hebern on Wikipedia
- Asian Resource Center on Oakland Chinatown Oral History Project
- Year of the Bay - historic photo c.1971
- Asian Resource Center - East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC) page
- Before ENIGMA: Breaking the Hebern Rotor Machine medium.com August 8, 2017
- ohrphoto.dpoa8.003 Oakland History Center, Oakland Public Library
- Deed from Lyon Heirs' Trust to EBALDC Deed from Lyon heirs to EBALDC.pdf
- Palatial Plant Is Completed Oakland Tribune December 9, 1923
- Ground Broken For Hebern Code Co. Factory Oakland Tribune September 24, 1922