The Chinese Historical Society of New England (CHSNE) hosted a reception on May 23 for the Chinatown Atlas going online at the Massachusetts Historical Society. About 50 individuals attended the event.
The Chinatown Atlas was a 15-year effort by Tunney Lee, former MIT professor of architecture and urban planning, to document the origins of the Chinese in Boston and how they built Chinatown. Formerly displayed as banners, the maps, photos and elevation renderings are now part ofan interactive website.
Lee’s research team included architect Randall Imai, CHSNE member David Chang, MIT students and many others.
Since 2005, National Trust for Canada has been publishing an annual list of the country’s most endangered places.
The charity releases the list to raise awareness of the “value that historic places bring to quality of life, local identity and cultural vitality.” In choosing the sites for the list, the organization measures a place’s significance, the severity of the threat it faces and how much work has been done to protect it.
This year’s list, released on Thursday, includes Vancouver’s Chinatown, which the organization says is at risk of losing its unique character.
“Relentless development threatens the physical fabric of this nationally significant urban cultural landscape,” the charity states on its website. It adds that “intense speculation” has raised rents and displaced long-time residents.
Canada’s largest Chinatown stands as a testament to the integral role the Chinese community has played in shaping Vancouver. Since before the city’s founding in 1886, Chinese immigrants settled in the area of Carrall Street and Pender Street, forming a tight-knit self-segregated community, amidst racial prejudice. They brought with them Chinese architectural styles, whose influence is felt throughout the neighbourhood and in the National Historic Site at its core. The blend of Chinese and Western styles lends Chinatown its distinctive feel, giving rise to places like the Sam Kee Building, the world’s narrowest commercial building, and the Chinese Freemason’s Building. Today, Chinatown continues to be a hub for social and cultural activities for Vancouver’s thriving Chinese community.
All eyes were on Chinatown Calgary this month as the community fought back against plans for a 27-storey development pegged for the largest vacant lot in the community. Chinatown’s existing Area Redevelopment Plan hasn’t been updated in 30 years, but with three more developers drawing up plans for the neighbourhood, it’s now getting some much needed attention.
“Policy documents like this should be reviewed every five years,” says Terry Wong, spokesman for Chinatown’s recently founded Business Revitalization Zone, “so it’s 25 years overdue.”