Rancho Cucamonga Chinatown House listed as endangered historic site


A Rancho Cucamonga structure described as one of the last surviving examples of Chinese worker housing in the region has been included on a list of threatened significant historic places.

The Chinatown House was selected by the National Trust for Historic Preservation for its 2013 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, the trust announced Wednesday.

The list also includes the Astrodome, the so-called eighth wonder of the world in Houston; rural schoolhouses throughout the state of Montana; and the Worldport Terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. The selections were based on the locales being at risk of destruction or damage beyond repair.


The Chinatown House, built in 1919 and designated as a city landmark in 1985, is a two-story brick building that was home to about 50 Chinese American laborers. There is also a general store. The trust described the house as “one of the last remaining tangible connections to the once-thriving Chinese community that helped build modern-day Rancho Cucamonga.”

City officials had recently issued a notice to the property’s owner, the Cucamonga Valley Water District, to correct structural issues in the vacant and neglected house. The water district was moving forward with plans to demolish the house when local advocates began pushing to save it.

“It has been in ill disrepair for many years,” Jo Lynne Russo-Pereyra, the water district’s assistant general manager, said of the structure, noting that its second floor had been condemned more than 50 years ago.

But Russo-Pereyra said that demolition plans have been tabled as the water district works with the city to secure the site, keeping out intruders who might get hurt. The water district has no plans for the site, she said.

She said the water district wasn’t involved in efforts to get the site added to the list and the announcement came as a surprise.

“We had no idea,” she said. “We feel that we’re in good company with all the others on the list.”


A coalition -- made up of several historical organizations in the region -- applied for the designation in a competitive process. Advocates hope to repair the dilapidated structure and turn it into an educational space, highlighting not only Chinese American history but also agriculture and the expansion of the American West.

The designation does not come with any explicit protection, but the hope of advocates is that being added to the list will raise the site’s profile as they attempt to collect money -- more than $1 million -- to restore and retrofit the site.

Eugene Moy, co-chairman of the Chinatown House Preservation Coalition, said the site was among the last of its kind, if not the last. Many Chinatowns throughout the Inland Empire and Southern California had been wiped out.

“It was a place where you got your information, and served as a post office -- it had an integral role in the community,” Moy said of the building, as well as other similar sites. “It’s a unique structure, even though architecturally it’s very utilitarian and doesn’t represent any high style of architecture. It’s more about the people and the work they did.”


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