Chinatown in Chicago, IL

Chicago currently has two Chinatown. Or it can be called South Chinatown and North Chinatown. The Chinatown in the southern part of Chicago has historically focused around the area from 18th Street on the north, 31st Street on the south, State Street on the east, and the Chicago River on the west. This is the one with longer history which can be traced back to 1870s.

According to the research of Elaine Sit, a lawyer, writer and Chinese-American buff:

"Chinese began settling in Chicago after the Great Fire. ... By 1912, the community of apporximately 2,000 Chinese in Chicago, mostly from the province of Canton, included 110 children enrolled in public schools.

Of these, 99 were American-born of foreign parents, many of whom toiled in the 300 Chinese laundries scattered throughut the city.

In August (1912), plans were announced to build a new Chinatown near Wentworth Avenue and 22nd Street, considered a slum and vice district. Anchoring the area was a (still standing) two-block-long building with 15 storefronts, two large restaurants, 30 appartments and a clubroom for the Chinese Merchants Association now known as the On Leong Tong."

Among the Chinese first settled in Chicago, "Restaurateur Chin Foin was considered a pioneer when he moved his family miled from Chicago's first Chinatown in 1912." The city's first Chinatown was located on Clark between Van Buren and Harrison. "... prosperous restaurateur Chin Foin, felt 'no resident section of Chicago should be beyond the reach of a modern day Chinese gentleman. ... There is room for those who reach the top, be they Caucasian or Mongolian.' Foin got rich catering to Chicagoans. His advertised 'high class oriental' restaurant, the Manderin-Inn, 414-16 S. Wabash, was probably the first in the city to ofter American-style Chinese food." (Chicago Sun-Times, Oct. 4, 1999, pg.18)

Another Chinatown in Chicago is located at Argyle & Broadway area, north side of Chicago. This is new location for the Chinatown which started in 1970s.

In 1974, the restaurateur Jimmy Wong and his friends, and the Hip Sing Association of which Wong was the president bought eighty percent of the three-block stretch on Argyle. Businesses began opening then along Argyle. Because sickness of Mr. Wong, later on in 1979, Charlie Soo, the founder of Asian American Small Business Association, continued Mr. Wong's torch and made significant contribution to the development of Argyle street. Charlie Soo and Jimmy wong were the pioneers of Argyle Street.

At present, the Argyle area is known more for its Southeast Asians and Chinese who come mainly from Vietnam. It is often called The "Small Saigon"

Both Chinatowns in Chicago have many different styles Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants, grocery stores and other retailers, wholesalers and companies. They are spotlights of the city.