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Chinatown's beginnings
Hawaii's first Chinese
Chinatown takes shape
Chinatown's other communities
Chinatown fire of 1886
Chinatown fire of 1900
Chinese culture
A`ala Park
Cultural and economic changes
Chinatown's rejuvenation
Chinatown today
Bibliography - Chinatown



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Chinatown's other communities

Honolulu's Chinatown has never been exclusively Chinese. In 1823, 4,000-5,000 Hawaiians lived in Honolulu, most within one square mile of the harbor. In the first half of the 19th century, a number of Hawaiian ali`i had homes in the area, including Queen Emma, their larger land parcels punctuating a hodgepodge of smaller house lots and blocks of storefronts.

Many Chinese men married Hawaiian women thus becoming, after the Alien Law of 1838, naturalized citizens. The number of Hawaiians in the area remained substantial for many decades despite increased Chinese immigration and Chinese and Hawaiians continued to work, trade and live together comfortably.

Chinatown drew all types. The succession of names associated with just one building - the H.Y. Wong building - includes Kikihale, Pehu, Kuihelani, Kanewela, Joe Brown, Maa Chas, James Armstrong, Ah Chong, Sang Lee, Yip Chong, Joao Rodrigues, Raymando de la Reyne, and John Lewis (an African-American sail maker) and testifies to the diversity of Chinatown's population.

Before Honolulu built parks and other public spaces, Chinatown was also a gathering place for residents from other neighborhoods. In the 1860s, the Saturday afternoon meat and produce market near the harbor end of Nu`uanu Avenue was the place to be seen. The market became a social gathering place in the absence of a more refined promenade or public park.

Temporary foreign residents (whalers, sailors, etc.) also settled in the area near the harbor. Most of the less-reputable establishments in Chinatown - grog shops, gambling joints, and prostitution houses - came into being to service this population. By the late 1850s, Nu`uanu Avenue was known among British sailors as Fid Street (an English term for drink) because it had so many bars. In the late 1800s, over 300 prostitutes worked Chinatown's streets.

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