Archaeology illuminates Chinese language companies in Eugene, Oregon

The Westfall household lived within the Osburn Lodge in downtown Eugene for a lot of years. Whereas they lived there, the lodge boasted a ‘Japanese Tea Room,’ a lavish assembly area stuffed with Asian artwork. Credit score: College of Oregon

Uncovering the previous of traditionally under-represented communities generally means having to perform a little digging, by newspapers, archives and even the bottom.

A brand new inexpensive housing development undertaking in downtown Eugene, Oregon tapped archaeologists from the Museum of Pure and Cultural Historical past to conduct an archaeological research on the website. Positioned in Eugene’s downtown industrial core, the undertaking supplied what researchers thought have been a number of thrilling prospects.

The downtown space has been in steady use for greater than a century, and a current survey by museum archaeologists of the fifth Avenue Public Market enlargement yielded a lot of artifacts. The world additionally had been mapped extensively, due to a 1912 fireplace insurance coverage mapping undertaking from the Sanborn Map Firm.

Most enjoyable to archaeologists, nonetheless, was that metropolis directories from the early twentieth century listed a Chinese language restaurant and Hung Wo Chang & Co. reward store close to the location.

“We anticipated we would discover archaeological materials based mostly on the Sanborn maps,” stated Chris Ruiz, a museum archaeologist engaged on the undertaking.

As anticipated, archaeologists have been in a position to establish a number of artifacts courting again to the early twentieth century, together with items of a Chinese language stoneware bowl, a porcelain teacup, three Chinese language brown stoneware liquor bottles, and a Japanese porcelain vessel.

“We have been actually excited after we discovered the artifacts and we have been in a position to affiliate the ceramics with companies within the space,” Ruiz stated.

In an article printed in Oregon Historic Quarterly‘s winter 2021 situation, Ruiz and museum archaeologists Marlene Jampolsky and Jon Krier element how the artifacts assist reveal an untold story of the Chinese language diaspora and Chinese language American historical past in Eugene.

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“The data was all there,” Ruiz stated, “however no one had actually pulled all of it collectively. No archaeologists or historians had actually written about these companies earlier than.”

A tea cup shard present in excavations for a brand new constructing in downtown Eugene the place Chinese language-run companies as soon as operated. Credit score: College of Oregon

Museum archaeologists dug into metropolis directories, newspaper archives and historic maps. They weren’t ranging from scratch, Ruiz stated.

“We had the handle, which may level us to the names of the companies,” he stated. “From there, we may do analysis on the house owners and uncover who they have been and after they lived in Eugene.”

The house owners, Wing Kee and Marie Westfall, have been working their companies at a time when People have been embracing the trimmings and aesthetics of Asian tradition however actively discriminating in opposition to Asian folks.

Wing Kee’s father, Jim Westfall, was a distinguished determine within the Corvallis and enterprise communities. He tried to develop into a U.S. citizen in 1886 however was denied as a result of Chinese language Exclusion Act. Wing Kee was born in Oregon in 1875 and was registered for the draft, indicating he was a native-born U.S. citizen.

In the meantime, Eugene was changing into extra various. Though situated on Kalapuya ilihi, the standard homelands of the Kalapuya folks, town of Eugene was largely Euro-American all through the late 1800s and early 1900s. Ruiz stated there have been no data of Chinese language folks in Eugene earlier than the late 1870s. It was into this atmosphere that Wing Kee moved to Eugene.

By 1911, Wing Kee was the proprietor of the Smeede Lodge Grill, which marketed serving a “Chinese language Invoice of Fare.” He later opened a restaurant of his personal, which newspaper articles typically referred to with simply his title or because the China Noodle Home.

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In 1914, Wing Kee opened Hung Wo Chang & Co reward store on Sixth Avenue, advertising Chinese language merchandise to non-Chinese language shoppers. Marie, Wing Kee’s spouse, was listed because the proprietor of the companies in newspapers and on official metropolis directories within the Nineteen Twenties.

In accordance with a Eugene Every day Guard article from 1917, the household was concerned within the struggle effort throughout World Battle I. The Guard studies that “a volunteer within the meals conservation marketing campaign” signed Wing Kee up as a “member of the USA meals administration within the struggle in opposition to Germany.” The identical article mentions Wing Kee’s spouse, Marie, as a Crimson Cross volunteer who went to “sew for the troopers.”

Within the Nineteen Twenties, Wing Kee turned the operation of the restaurant over to his spouse and relocated to Astoria to begin a brand new enterprise. In 1928, Marie’s transfer to Astoria was important sufficient to get tales in a number of newspapers.

“There’s some hope that archaeology might help illuminate these previous lives that aren’t well-represented within the historic narrative,” Ruiz stated. “Eugene has a variety of fascinating historical past pertaining to traditionally underrepresented communities. We nonetheless have lots to do to uncover these tales.”


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Extra data:
Longevity: The Archaeology of a Chinese language Enterprise in Eugene’s Market District

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College of Oregon

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Archaeology illuminates Chinese language companies in Eugene, Oregon (2022, Might 16)
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