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Five Views: An Ethnic Historic Site Survey for California



Early Contacts

Historic Sites
Selected References


A History of Chinese Americans in California:

Old Chinese Herb Shop
Truckee, Nevada County

Chinese American laborers constructed a railroad bed, laid railroad tracks, built snow sheds and other buildings, and provided maintenance for the first transcontinental railroad through the Sierra Nevada. In Truckee, Nevada County, Chinese Americans also worked as lumberjacks, mill hands, ice cutters, and teamsters.

Truckee was the scene of riots and racial unrest in which Chinatown was repeatedly burned and Chinese Americans driven from their homes.

After the first Chinese American community was destroyed, a second Chinatown was built behind Front Street near the Old Jail. A fire broke out on May 29, 1875 that destroyed the whole of the Chinese American community, causing a $50,000 loss to the Chinese Americans living there. An unsuccessful effort was made on November 18, 1878 to prevent rebuilding of the Chinese American community. A body of 400 to 500 Whites assembled in the Chinese quarter and totally destroyed the buildings. Nevertheless, within a month, a new Chinatown had sprung up on the south side of the river outside the city limits.

The Old Chinese Herb Shop is the last remaining structure from Truckee's third Chinatown. The herb shop, dating from 1878, is a small, one-story rectangular brick building with a wooden gable facing east. The facade has a door and a window with iron shutters on the ground floor. The square window in the gable has no iron shutters, but the gable itself is probably a later replacement. Inside are unfaced brick walls with recently added wood paneling in the front portion of the shop. According to the present owner, about one foot of dirt covers the floor of the attic, presumably as insulation and fire protection for the wooden beams of the first-floor ceiling.

The building has been changed considerably by a brick addition on the north side, wooden wing attachments on both the north and south sides, and a cement block addition on the north side. The whole structure is painted white and has a metal roof. The herb shop can be best seen from the front of the building; only a small portion is visible at the rear. It is situated on the south bank of the Truckee River on the site of Truckee's third Chinatown. It is surrounded by scattered modern residences to the south, and a trailer park to the north and east.

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

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