Monday, August 6, 2012

China Town of Rancho Cucamonga

Report expected on historic China House in Rancho Cucamonga

Created:   08/02/2012 07:06:13 AM PDT

In the 1880s, Chinese workers who had helped build the transcontinental railroad settled in an area of Rancho Cucamonga near the present-day intersection of San Bernardino Road and Archibald Avenue.
They found work in vineyards and farms, digging irrigation channels, and making fireworks. Hundreds of Chinese immigrants lived in a small area of town where the present-day intersection of Klusman and San Bernardino Avenues is today.
Nearly a century ago, a fire burned down the wooden homes the Chinese workers lived in. Replacement living quarters came in the form of three two-story clay block structures, that housed dozens of workers each. All that remains of the former China Town of Rancho Cucamonga is a single two-story clay block home on the northwest corner of Klusman and San Bernardino.
Ed Dietl, a member of the Rancho Cucamonga Historic Preservation Association, wants to preserve a part of this history for present and future residents. Dietl said he believes the deteriorating building, which is made of unsupported clay blocks, will eventually fall on its own in the near future.
"When that happens then we'll have to knock it down because it will be a health hazard for all the people who try to walk through the area," Dietl said.
"What we'd like to do is take it down nicely and preserve some of the bricks, and build a nice pyramid or corner stone or something on the property with a brass plaque saying at one time there was a Chinatown here."
Dietl shared interesting tidbits about the building's history. After the last Chinese resident left the home in the 1940s, a family moved into the home after which they installed heating, air, and plumbing.
The children in the family were delighted to find secret tunnels underneath the building. Others later found smoking pipes and bottles - the artifacts from the earlier inhabitants near the former outhouse in the backyard.
Dietl also believes the former residents of the home are buried underneath the property.
"We think that most of the people that died on this property were buried on this property because there was no Chinese cemetery.
Dietl also related a legend about a former resident, who had lived in the Chinatown for 50 years, and had lived in the home before he died at the age of 87. Two days before his death, he gave newspaper confetti to a woman he had been working for and asked the woman to spread the confetti over his grave in order "to keep the devil away."
Dietl said the woman could still see the man standing over his grave amidst the confetti.
"I'm sure there's ghosts here," Dietl said. There's a lot of history here."
Officials
Edward Dietl, of the Rancho Cucamonga Historic Preservation Association, is interested in keeping the history of the China House, alive. The home, which was built in 1919, is the last remnant of a once thriving China Town, near the intersection of Archibald Avenue and San Bernardino Road. (Neil Nisperos/Staff Writer)
with the Cucamonga Valley Water District, which owns the property, said they are developing a historic preservation plan, said Jolynne Russo-Pereyra, assistant general manager of the Water District.Russo-Pereyra said the plan is to hire a historic preservation consultant. Preliminary ideas include photographic documentation and drafting engineering records, preservation of the bricks, and the placement of a plaque or monument commemorating the site.
"The structure is very dilapidated and very unsafe and we've been in communications with the city about this but we'd like to memorialize the significance of it, so we'll be bringing in a historic preservation consultant," Russo-Pereyra said.
At a recent Rancho Cucamonga Planning Commission meeting, Dietl asked officials and planners for a report on what the city with the water district to preserve the site.
Officials said a report on the property will be presented at the next Planning Commission meeting in August.
"We love the old property and we want to do everything we can to preserve a little bit of Cucamonga's history. We'd love to do it because it's disappearing rapidly and there's no money anymore. The best thing is to donate the piece of property to a historical association or do some work on the property to fix it up so it looks pretty nice. This is a really nice old area of Cucamonga which shows the way it existed and we're not doing ourselves any favors by leaving it the way it is."

1 comment:

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