After four appeals in the course of 12 years, Pittsburgh’s historic Chinatown was officially recognized as a historical landmark in Pennsylvania on Saturday.
In celebration of the recognition, a plaque honoring the Chinese immigrants who established Chinatown over 120 years was unveiled. It is located in front of what is considered Pittsburgh’s oldest Chinese restaurant, the Chinatown Inn.
Pittsburgh’s Chinatown covers around one block between the Boulevard of the Allies and Third Avenue.
The official landmark recognition was given in March 2021; however, celebrations for the achievement were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to the unveiling of the plaque, the Organization of Chinese Americans Pittsburgh (OCA Pittsburgh) brought together cultural performances and live music which included a steel lion dance, a kung fu exposition, traditional Chinese pipa music and a concert featuring Jason Chu, Alan Z and MC Tingbudong.
During the early 1900s, Pittsburgh’s Chinatown was considered a lively and vibrant neighborhood filled with gift shops, grocery stores, restaurants and a small park where Chinese families would gather to socialize. According to the OCA Pittsburgh president Marian Lien, Chinatown had more than 1,000 residents at its peak.
After construction began for the Boulevard of the Allies in 1921, the community began to disintegrate as residents were pushed away due to projects such as parking lots and highways.
The daughter of Chinatown’s last informal mayor Yuen Yee, Shirley Yee, described Chinatown as the root of her “heritage” and “identity.”
“A lot of my heritage, my roots, my identity, [are] all from there. And even though I didn’t grow up there, my ancestors arrived there and lived and worked there,” Yee told Pittsburgh City Paper. “But it was through their hard work and perseverance, that helped us, the next generation, go to college and blend into the society at large. We were all able to accomplish our dreams thanks to their hard work.”