Seattle’s historic, intimately-scaled, Chinatown-International District has been squeezed by a pair of sports stadiums and condo development, but the heart of the ID beats on.
The recently built Chinatown Gate (2008) at South King Street and Fifth Avenue South is the realization of the many-decades dream of the Chinese community. It’s built to withstand the test of time. A second gate will be raised at South King Street and 12th Avenue South.
The International District is a Pan-Asian American community made up of people from numerous Pacific Rim countries in addition to China: Japan, Philippines, Viet Nam, Korea, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.
Hing Hay Park, corner of South King Street and Maynard Avenue South, forms the heart of the district. Musical and cultural events, community meetings, and morning Tai Chi are part of what goes on here.
The International District allows locals to experience a different Seattle, one rooted in the histories and cultures from across the Pacific that also helped build this city.
Chinese immigrants, recruited to do the hard, manual labor of building the city and region — including laying the first railroads and working the canneries — settled on the eastern outskirts of Pioneer Square in the 1880s. The recession of the 1880s led to the expulsion of hundreds of Chinese in 1886; gradually they returned, but a civic project flattened the original Chinatown. After the turn of the century Seattle’s second Chinatown grew up around the railroad terminals and marshalling yards with the construction of hotels and a business district. Japanese and Filipino immigrants also moved in.
Before World War II Seattle was home to the West Coast’s second largest “Japan Town,” clustered around Yesler Way. Japan Town never recovered from the forced removals because of the War. In the early 1950s the area’s increasing diversity caused Seattle Mayor William Devin to advance a new name — International District — for the neighborhood.
Boundaries: West: Fifth Avenue South; East: Boren and Rainier Avenue South, South: South Dearborn Street; North: South Main Street.