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View Full Version : Housing for the Chinese in the 19th Century?



katatonic
04-14-2009, 10:18 PM
Would it be unheard of for a Chinese family to have their own house (not tent or anything else) in the 1870's in a small prospecting town?

I have no idea....

Cheers

JamieFord
04-14-2009, 10:32 PM
Possible, but not normal by any means. My Chinese grandfather owned property, including a hotel, in Tonopah, Nevada in the late 1800s. Some cities and townships had zoning laws that forbade the sale of property to minorities, and even if they could buy property, on many occasions they were just run out of town and forcibly evicted.

frimble3
04-15-2009, 06:18 AM
If it's a fictitious town, you could probably do whatever works for your story. If yours is the only Chinese family in town, they may be perceived as a novelty, rather than a threat. If it's a raw mining community, where everyone's in tents, the house would be a sign of conspicious success, and might attract envy. What does your family do for a living? If they are miners why are they settling down, they should have one eye on the next big strike. I would think the more likely scenario would be some sort of business, with living space in back or upstairs. If the bulk of the town is single miners, they need someone to sell stuff, cook, or do laundry. All the support services. Or farming, but that's not in town.

ideagirl
04-18-2009, 04:52 AM
Possible, but not normal by any means. My Chinese grandfather owned property, including a hotel, in Tonopah, Nevada in the late 1800s. Some cities and townships had zoning laws that forbade the sale of property to minorities, and even if they could buy property, on many occasions they were just run out of town and forcibly evicted.

My dad, a 4th-generation Californian, told me that the reason San Francisco's Chinatown has so many Asian-style buildings is because after the 1906 earthquake leveled that neighborhood, the white city councilmen wouldn't give Chinese businesspeople permits to rebuild because they wanted to force the Chinese people off that land and take it themselves. So the Chinese community had meetings and sent a delegation to say, in essence, "Give us our goddamn permits or every Chinese person in this entire city will leave ASAP, so you won't have any more laundries at all or any more [various other predominantly Chinese businesses]. Good luck running a city with no laundries..." The councilmen relented and gave them their permits, and many of them rebuilt in the Asian style, thinking that Asian-style buildings would be less desirable to white people and so the white people would quit trying to take their land.