Forgotten Chinatown that thrived for a century could finally see recognition


Efforts are being made to remember a Missouri Chinatown that existed for nearly 100 years before it was destroyed and forgotten over time.

Key points:

  • The Chinatown, which thrived in downtown St. Louis, was home to businesses such as groceries, restaurants and laundry services.

  • The first Chinese immigrant arrived in St. Louis in 1857.

  • Alderwoman Cara Spencer is currently leading efforts to officially commemorate the Chinatown.

The details:

  • Also known as “Hop Alley,” the Chinatown existed from 1869 to 1966 in the area of 7th, 8th, Walnut and Market Streets. It housed multiple businesses, including groceries, restaurants, merchant stores, tea shops and laundry services.

  • The Chinatown was destroyed to make way for a baseball stadium — the now-demolished Busch Memorial Stadium — and some parking lots. This forced community members to move into other areas or out of the city.

  • St. Louis traces its Chinese American history to Alla Lee, the first Chinese immigrant to arrive in the city in 1857. The native of Ningbo, China, opened a coffee and tea shop on North 10th Street and eventually married an Irish woman.

  • The Chinatown never made it to the history books. Over 100 years after its establishment, concerned individuals formed a group called the Chinese American Collecting Initiative and partnered with the Missouri Historical Society to conduct research on the lost neighborhood, KSDK reported.

  • Alderperson Cara Spencer (8th Ward) sponsored Board Bill Number 32, which seeks to rename a portion of South 8th Street to “On Leong Way.” The move honors the On Leong-Chinese Merchants' Association, a community organization whose nearby building had served as a gathering space.

  • “On Leong Way” will begin at the intersection of South 8th Street and Walnut Street and run North on South 8th Street to the intersection of South 8th Street and Market Street. So far, the bill has been met with support.


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