Chinatown North was Chilliwack’s first Chinatown. Located in downtown Chilliwack around the Five Corners intersection, Chinese merchants began operating businesses in the area as early as 1882. Over the next two decades, the Chinese community grew and established businesses that offered the local populations a variety of goods and services. From groceries and restaurants, to laundry services and boarding houses, Chinese-operated businesses expanded north along Young Street.
These businesses, established by merchants such as Young Duck Let and Ng Shai Han, were based out of narrow, wood-framed buildings. The area became a thriving centre for Chilliwack’s Chinese community and soon, a distinct neighbourhood, Chinatown North, emerged.
In 1886, Tom Lung Tai opened the first recorded Chinese-run laundry in Chilliwack and his employee, Fook Yuen Ah, did laundry for “half the town” according to The Chilliwack Progress in 1898. Shops opened by Chinese migrants often involved low initial investment and could employ many Chinese labourers at low cost while the growing Chinese population provided ready demand for their services.
Between 1908 and the 1930s, Chinese-operated businesses accounted for nearly 10% of the registered businesses in Chilliwack, many based out of Chinatown North. To learn more about the businesses in Chinatown North, listen to an 1983 interview between retired logger William Franklin Bradshaw and the Chilliwack Museum and Historical Society’s Neil Grainger.
A devastating fire in Chinatown North in 1921 resulted in the deaths of three people and the destruction of various Chinese shops. As a result of the fire, many Chinese residents left Chinatown North and shops belonging to impacted Chinese entrepreneurs were not rebuilt.