Seattle's Chinatown/International District is located southeast of Pioneer Square, bordered by Yesler Street on the north, Fifth Avenue on the west, Dearborn Street on the south, and I-5 on the east. The historic district within this area was built largely between 1909 and 1929, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Vibrant storefronts are home to restaurants, galleries, gift shops, produce markets, herbalists and other traditional and modern establishments. Visitors may notice the contrast between the lively ground level shops and upper floors that are often vacant, a legacy of changing building codes and complex ownership histories. Buildings which once served as SRO (single room occupancy) hotels catering to immigrant laborers are slowly being restored to serve as housing for new generations of urban residents.
Doorway cornices reveal the names of prosperous merchants, such as the Goon Dip Young Building (Milwaukee Hotel) at 668 S King Street. Signs painted on windows and building sides advertise long-lasting establishments such as the Luck Ngi Music Club at 512 Seventh Avenue S. A mural commemorates Filipino-American author Carlos Bulosan in the lobby of the Eastern Hotel at 506 Maynard Avenue S.
Chong Wa Benevolent Association
One of the grandest buildings in the district is the Chong Wa Benevolent Association at 522 Seventh Avenue S, an important social and cultural center built in 1929. The Nihon Go Gakko at 1414 S Weller Street is the oldest operating Japanese Language School in the continental U.S. The Danny Woo International District Community Garden and adjacent Kobe Terrace Park provide elegant green space in this dense urban area.
A colorful gate markes the historic western entrance of Old Chinatown, at S King Street and Fift Avenue S. The traditional design includes upturned eaves, a dragon, a phoenix and other good luck symbols.
Community activists have fought to preserve the neighborhood’s cultural and architectural heritage. In spite of freeway construction and “urban renewal” projects in the mid 20th century, much of the historic neighborhood remains intact. Community life is documented in publications such as the International Examiner, the Northwest Asian Weekly, and the Seattle Chinese Post, which has both English and Chinese editions.
The area east of I-5 around 12th Avenue S and S Jackson Street has become known as Little Saigon in recent years, as newer immigrant communities establish a presence in the district.
Night markets on summer evenings feature traditional cuisine, shopping and entertainment in an open-air setting around Hing Hay Park.The historic Chinatown/International District neighborhood offers a remarkable urban experience for walking, shopping and dining. A detailed walking guide is available on the City of Seattle's website at www.seattle.gov/tour/HistoricDistricts/ID.pdf.