online book
Weaverville Chinese family
Five Views: An Ethnic Historic Site Survey for California



Early Contacts

Historic Sites
Selected References


A History of Chinese Americans in California:

Hi Chung Laundry
Elmira, Solano County

The Hi Chung Laundry, located in Elmira, Solano County, is a one-story, rectangular wood-frame building with walls of shiplap boards. Its roof is tarpaper, and has a low gable. The facade, with a single door and two windows, faces north. The faded lettering "Hi Chung Laundry" is still discernible on the gable. On the west side is an entrance with a porch. The door on the east side opens out into the garden. A wooden shed has been added to the south side of the building. Further south, at the edge of the property, is the bank of a small stream.

The interior and east side of the building have been gutted by a recent fire, but the facade does not appear to be damaged. The house was painted white, and is surrounded by a white picket fence.

The Hi Chung Laundry is the only Chinese American historic building in Elmira. The town does not seem to ever have had a Chinese American community, although there were many Chinese American farm laborers in the surrounding area.

According to the 1880 Census Records, there were nine Chinese Americans in Elmira, all single men. Six of them lived in the household of Hi Chung, a 45 year-old laundryman; the other two were cooks in white households. With Hi Chung were two other laundrymen, Tai Hoy, age 36, and Ho Lung, age 29, who ran the laundry. In addition, the household included two cooks, Lee Hiy, age 32, and Hop Lee, age 22, and two laborers, Sam Wau, age 28, and Wing Yum, age 26. The cooks and laborers may have lived at the laundry and worked elsewhere, or Hi Chung may have had a small restaurant in his establishment, which would have required cooks and laborers. Either way, with a laundry and rooming house or a laundry and restaurant, Hi Chung must have been a hard-working businessman.

When the Hi Chung Laundry was founded or how long it lasted is unknown. It does not appear on the 1870 Census Records, nor does it appear on those of 1900. This was a difficult time for Chinese Americans in the laundry business. Although they had been well accepted as laundrymen from the 1850s to the mid-1870s when no one else was available or wished to do this work, hostility grew as their prosperity grew. Men who previously would not have done "women's work" reconsidered. Organizations were formed to push Chinese Americans out of the laundry business. For example, on November 29, 1876, the Anti-Chinese and Workingmen's Protective Laundry Association was incorporated in San Jose "to carry on the laundry business in all of its branches, in opposition to the Chinese laundry men and wash houses of the City of San Jose and vicinity, and in the employment of white men and women in the said business, and the accumulation of property and capital for the purpose of carrying the business on successfully to the exclusion of Mongolian labor under the articles of this incorporation."

Hi Chung Laundry
Hi Chung Laundry, Elmira, Solano County

NEXT> Ken Ying Low Restaurant

online book Top

Last Modified: Wed, Nov 17 2004 10:00:00 pm PDT

ParkNet Home