Gathering: Kam Wah Chung & Co. Stone Block

Relationship: unknown
Stone block used to construct the first level of the Kam Wah Chung & Co. building, late 1800s. Courtesy of Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site.
Stone block used to construct the first level of the Kam Wah Chung & Co. building, late 1800s. Courtesy of Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site.

This stone block represents the building of Kam Wah Chung & Co. The Kam Wah Chung (translated as Golden Chinese Outpost) building was the only stone building in John Day’s Chinatown. In the mid-1880s, there were about 2,000 Chinese miners here, a thousand who were registered with the census, and at least another thousand that didn’t get counted. John Day had the third largest Chinatown in the United States after San Francisco (first) and either Seattle or Portland (second) depending on the exact year. Built around 1865 or 1866 by the Dalles Military Road Co., Chinese bought the building in 1871 and named it Kam Wah Chung & Co.

Two Chinese gentlemen, Lung On and Ing “Doc” Hay took it over in 1888. In the late 1890s, they found a house the same size as the top of the building and they hoisted it up on top to add a boarding house. Due to the hostility toward the Chinese, in the 1880s, they put iron shutters over the doors and windows for protection against flammable objects and firearms; there are still bullet holes in the main door. Later, the Chinese put in iron accordion doors for added protection.

The building was home and business to Lung On and Doc Hay, as well as the social center of the John Day Chinatown community. To Doc Hay, it was his apothecary and residence until 1948, servicing patients as far away as Texas and South Dakota. To Lung On, it was not only his home, but where he operated his general store, casino, temple, and a plethora of other businesses. This stone block was one of many blocks left as a support for the second floor. Later removed to allow renovation and stabilization of the structure. 

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): John Day, OR
Year: 1890

– Kam Wah Chung & Co.

Relationship:  unknown unknown