I took an extended walk through Seattle’s Chinatown/International District with scholar Marie Wong. “Building Tradition: Pan-Asian Seattle and Life in the Residential Hotels”is the Seattle University professor’s historical examination of this vibrant Seattle neighborhood.
The interview came out of an assignment for Seattle Magazine. I wrote a story for the December 2018 issue focused on Wong’s work and the future of the ID.
This is part two of the interview, touring the inside of the West Kong Yick Building and then a wander around the district.
We toured the district to get a feel for its past, present and future.
It’s a nice long walk and wander. I’ve broken it into two episodes, both around an hour each.
If you want to jump around, here is an annotated list of listening spots to land on along the way.
00:00 You have a flashlight? Let’s go inside West Kong Yick, the upper stories were boarded up in the 70’s.
2:44 Gazing up at the light-wells, bringing sunlight into the apartments on the inside of the hallway.
3:20 The West Kong Yick was built for a higher turnover in the population. Didn’t happen that way. Home redefined.
7:49 The room sizes varied to accommodate families.
9:29 They are taking out longs to renovate the building.
12:45 The redevelopment removes the transom windows but character and opportunity remain
20:00 The cubic air ordinance that created the excuse to push Asian Americans out of the NW cities in 1885 and 1886
21:25 How hard it is to renovate these buildings. What would be lost if they were radically altered.
24:49 Back on the street, looking across at the Gee How Oak Tin Family Association Building on 513 7thAve and explaining the different associations and Tongs of the District.
26:25 The Eclipse Hotel
27:37 The Japanese owned and operated many buildings.
28:42 The many hotels that were torn down. The parking lots trace the later history of the District.
30:30 William Chapelle, a notorious Caucasian property owner in the district during the 1800’s and early 1900’s, owned many hotels which were bawdy houses.
32:20 Poverty was the great unifier for people living in the community
33:00 More market rate rehabbed old SRO’s.
33:50 Photographer Dean Wong, author of “Seeing The Light,” documents Pan-Asian communities across the U.S.
34:40 Marie’s history.
36:50 Why the building styles of the Kong Yick are unique.
37:46 Parallels to San Francisco.
39:20 The myths of subterranean Chinatown and the preservation of urban artifacts.