Seattle Chinatown-International District Named to America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places
Listen to the full recording of our announcement on May 9, 2023 from Hing Hay Park with Katherine Malone-France, National Trust for Historic Preservation; Joël Barraquiel Tan, Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, Betty Lau, Transit Equity for All; and Huy Pham, Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation has named the Seattle Chinatown-International District (CID) to its 2023 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places—marking Washington State’s first inclusion on the list since it was established in 1988.
Established in the late 19th century and located south of downtown on the unceded lands of the Coast Salish people, the CID is the only area in the continental United States where Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, African Americans, and Vietnamese settled together and built one neighborhood. Today, the neighborhood and community face challenges from an impending infrastructure and transit project.
During the 1920s, ’60s, and ’70s, the construction of city streets, parking lots, two sports stadiums, and a highway divided the neighborhood and demolished businesses, homes, and churches. Community members rallied to preserve the area’s heritage, and it was designated a City of Seattle special review district in 1973 and placed on the Washington Heritage Register and National Register of Historic Places in 1986. Since then, the CID has been known for its historic architecture, multi-generational and multi-lingual businesses and families, and annual festivals and events celebrating the culture and traditions of the neighborhood’s shared heritage.
Today, however, the Seattle metro area’s regional transit agency, Sound Transit, is considering several transit expansion options that could impact the community’s transportation access and the CID’s cultural preservation. As part of the third expansion phase of the West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions (WSBLE) project, Sound Transit is proposing options for train line alignments and new stations within the CID—construction of which could negatively impact area businesses and residents.
The Washington Trust has been part of a coalition of partners (including the Wing Luke Museum and Transit Equity for All) advocating for a more transparent, equitable process that reflects careful decision-making and centers the voices of the CID. The coalition—which includes community organizations, businesses, residents, and supporters—came together to support the CID when the district was nominated to our statewide Most Endangered Places list in 2022.
By drawing public attention to Sound Transit’s planning decisions around the CID, we and our partners seek to ensure that Sound Transit mitigates construction impacts on the neighborhood, keeps the community connected to regional transit improvements, and minimizes displacement from the CID. We also hope that the neighborhood’s 11 Most Endangered status provides opportunities for Asian American community members to come together and demand bold investment and meaningful engagement from civic leaders and decision-makers.
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Top of page: The famous gate to the Seattle Chinatown-International District. Photo courtesy of Huy Pham.
Above: Thousands gather for Lunar New Year festivities in Seattle Chinatown-International District. Photo courtesy of Huy Pham.
Above: Hing Hay Park in the Seattle Chinatown-International District. Photo courtesy of Huy Pham.
Above: Historic blocks at the corner of King Street and 7th Avenue in the Seattle Chinatown-International District. Photo courtesy of Huy Pham.
Above: The Gateway arch welcomes visitors to Hing Hay Park at the corner of King Street and 6th Avenue in the Seattle Chinatown-International District. Photo courtesy of Huy Pham.