Chinatown is a neighborhood located between Union Square and North Beach that covers roughly 24 square blocks [ source] and contains a high concentration of Asian restaurants of all nationalities, jewelry stores, and other shops, as well as many homes. It is a popular tourist destination.


Chinatown was formed near the era of the Gold Rush, as the Chinese heard news of great wealth coming from California. Following a strong defeat to Britain in the Opium Wars, many Chinese came to America to seek the riches they had lost to the English. Californians were not so open to the immigrants, and several years of race rioting and laws forcing the immigrants out were passed.

1906 Earthquake

In 1906, the great earthquake completely destroyed the neighborhood. In the re-building efforts, there were trials with racist city officials attempting to "oust" the immigrants to other parts of towns, but they fought for their rights and re-built the neighborhood. While the neighborhood continues to receive newer immigrants and maintains a lively and active character, suburban flight has left the neighborhood relatively poor, decrepit in many parts, and largely elderly. 


A few notable buildings had incidences occur that caused the Chinatown community, and community organizations, and landlords to demand that "Chinatown be returned to its people". [source: Woman, Moon. "Bulls in Chinatown." San Francisco Good Times 12 Feb. 1971, Volume IV ed., No. 6 sec.: 6. Print.]


  • Leways: a Chinatown youth center
  • Asian Legal Services
  • Chinatown-Manilatown Draft Information Center
  • Chinatown Holiday Inn

Community Organizations

  • Wei Man She: an organization which staffs the Asian Community Center
  • Asian Legal Services

Present-day Notable Streets / Buildings / Places

San Francisco's Chinatown is the largest Chinatown outside of Asia. Among its attractions are the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory (which has been shipping cookies since 1962; visitors are kindly treated to the back to watch them being made by workers), Old Saint Mary's (built in 1854, California's first Cathedral), and Portsmouth Square (the first homestead outside of the Mission Dolores in San Francisco).

Grant Avenue

San Francisco's oldest street, Grant Avenue, runs eight blocks through the center of America's ethnic capital to over 1.5 million people of Chinese descent. Grant Avenue has changed completely into a tourist street.  

Visitors entering the neighborhood at Grant Avenue and Bush Street pass through an ornate archway typical of Chinese architecture, built in 1970. It is inscribed with the saying "All under heaven is for the good of the people," by Dr. Sun Yat-sen.



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