Gathering: Bunkhouse

Photographs of Bunkhouse on the Shinn Ranch, ca. 1974. Courtesy of Chinese Bunkhouse Preservation Project. Learn more here:
Photographs of Bunkhouse on the Shinn Ranch, ca. 1974. Courtesy of Chinese Bunkhouse Preservation Project. Learn more here:

This one-hundred-year-old Chinese Bunkhouse sits between a barn and a packing shed at the back of the Shinn Historical Park & Arboretum in Fremont, California . The Bunkhouse was once part of a complex of buildings along Alameda Creek - for sleeping, eating, and washing - for the Chinese workers at the Shinn ranch. Only the Bunkhouse and an outhouse remain now as evidence of the Chinese presence since the 1870's. This photo was taken about ten years after the creation of Shinn Park from the last four acres of the Shinn ranch property. The bunkhouse was probably still being used at this time. A flowering quince bush is growing along the side. A table on the front porch stands ready to be used by its occupant.

Imagine cooking a meal over a wood-fired wok with Chinese vegetables grown in a plot nearby. Imagine pulling a hot apple pie and cookies from the traditional clay oven, experiencing the after-school treat that children enjoyed while walking from Niles Elementary School home through the orchards of the Shinn family and the California Nursery. Imagine what it must have been like to live and sleep in a drafty bunkhouse like this one, listening on your crystal radio to music and programs, talking about your family back home.  Imagine that your wife and children are living in China and you cannot visit them. Imagine meeting your son the first time and he is 24 years old. Imagine your friends and family coming from Oakland and San Francisco - all coming together to harvest and dry the apricots from orchards all through the township. Imagine the growth of the Washington Township and our cities from 1853 to 1960.

Many people have no idea that people came from China to our area as early as 1865. Buildings such as these housed ranch workers and are the physical evidence of their lives here. We will continue to collaborate with local museums and descendants to record and present the history of the Chinese people who lived and worked in the Washington Township - for the Shinn family and for other ranches, farms, and nurseries.

This object was featured in the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA)'s exhibit, "Gathering: Collecting and Documenting Chinese American History," October 17, 2019 - March 22, 2020.

Place(s): Fremont, CA
Year: 1974

– Chinese Bunkhouse Preservation Project

Relationship:  unknown unknown