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General Area of the 1873 Chinese Community


Like many cities of the 1870's, Portland was built up primarily with wooden frame buildings of various sizes and shapes. On August 2, 1873, a major fire erupted in the area where most Chinese businesses were located, and it quickly jumped from building to building. Within a few hours it had destroyed a seventeen-block area, including all of the Chinese community at that time. No one is known to have been killed in the fire, although there were many minor injuries to people who were trying to save their belongings.


No official cause of the fire was ever listed, but Portland Judge Matthew P. Deady said it was "the work an incendiary and most like of some wicked anti-Chinese fanatics" (Wong, p243). There had been many threats to the owners of Chinese businesses in the area prior to the fire.


Within two years the area was rebuilt with new brick or stone buildings, as required by a new fire code, and at least eighteen of the new buildings were occupied by Chinese businesses and dwellings.

Sources: Pfaelzer, Wong, local newspapers



Also in this area:  Albina  Oregon City



About this site: One of the main intersections where Chinese businesses and dwellings were located in 1873 was at First and Salmon (now SW First Avenue and SW Salmon Street). Today this intersection is dominated by architecture of the World Trade Center, which includes a small Asian-style garden shown in the foreground of this photo.

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