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Chinatown, Philadelphia

Philadelphia Chinatown
Neighborhood of Philadelphia
Chinese "Friendship Arch", 10th Street (十街 Shí Jiē) and Arch Street (T: 亞區街, S: 亚区街, P: Yàqū Jiē), as seen from the north
Country  United States
State Pennsylvania
County Philadelphia County
City Philadelphia
ZIP Code 19107
Area code(s) Area code 215

Philadelphia Chinatown (Simplified Chinese: 费城华埠, Traditional Chinese: 費城華埠, Pinyin: Fèichéng Huábù) is a predominantly Asian American neighborhood in Center City Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC, T: 費城華埠發展會, S: 费城华埠发展会, P: Fèichéng Huábù Fāzhǎn Huì) supports the area. The neighborhood stretches from Vine Street in the north to Arch Street in the south, and from North Franklin Street and North 7th Street in the east to North Broad Street in the west.


  • History 1
  • Cityscape 2
  • Demographics 3
  • Landmarks 4
  • Culinary attractions 5
  • Transportation 6
  • Education 7
    • Primary and secondary schools 7.1
      • Public schools 7.1.1
      • Private schools 7.1.2
    • Colleges and libraries 7.2
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


Buddhist Temple in Philadelphia Chinatown

In the mid-19th century, Cantonese immigrants to Philadelphia opened laundries and restaurants in an area in close proximity to Philadelphia's commercial wharves. This led to the start of Philadelphia's Chinatown.[1] The first business was a laundry owned by Lee Fong at 913 Race Street; it opened in 1871. In the following years, Chinatown consisted of ethnic Chinese businesses clustered around the 900 block of Race Street.[2] Before the mid-1960s it consisted of several restaurants and one grocery store.[3]

In the mid-1960s large numbers of families began moving to Chinatown.[3] During various periods of urban renewal, starting in the 1960s, portions of Chinatown were razed for the construction of the Vine Street Expressway and the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation was formed in 1968. This gave community and business leaders more say in matters of local development.[4]

In years leading up to 1998, businesses catering to other immigrants from East Asian countries, like Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam, opened in Chinatown.[1]

In the late 1990s the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team was hoping to build a new ball park in downtown Philadelphia to replace the aging Veterans Stadium in South Philadelphia. Several locations were considered, including 12th and Vine Streets, just north of the Vine Street Expressway. The Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation mounted an intense opposition to the ballpark plans. Residents were concerned that the ballpark would destroy Chinatown. The PCDC staged protests and rallies that united neighborhood groups, religious, labor, ethnic, and political groups.[3] Eventually the Phillies built Citizens Bank Park at the South Philadelphia Sports Complex, which opened in 2004.

In 2012, a plan to build the Eastern Tower Community Center was approved by the city council, with construction expected to be completed by 2015.

The neighborhood is in danger of being gentrified with the increase in white population to the area, as with other East Coast Chinatowns in New York City and Boston. Despite the fact that expansion has occurred into the Chinatown North (Callowhill) neighborhood north of the Vine Street Expressway, the Chinese population continues to dwindle as real estate prices increase with the building of luxury condominiums each unit valued around $250,000 and up in 2013.[5]


Vine Street is the northern boundary of Chinatown. Restaurants and shops, with apartment units located above, are in the buildings south of Vine street, within Chinatown. Factories and other industrial properties are located on the other side of Vine Street.[6] Filbert Street serves as the southern border.[7] Chinatown includes a core area that has seven city blocks. Many of the residents of the block were, as of 1998, recent immigrants.[1]

Developments in the 20th century formed the current boundaries of the Philadelphia Chinatown. In the 1920s ramps leading to the Ben Franklin Bridge were constructed at Chinatown's northern edge. At another point, the city condemned an area east of what is now Chinatown so that the new headquarters of the Philadelphia Police Department, Independence Mall, and a hospital could be constructed.[7] At one point the city proposed building an eight lane highway that would divide the Philadelphia Chinatown into two parts and eliminate the Holy Redeemer Church and School. The church and school remained, while the Vine Street Expressway, smaller than its original proposed size, was built. Cecelia Yep, one of the founders of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Coalition, said "I think we saw it as a plan to get rid of Chinatown. [The church and school] was the only thing good in Chinatown at the time. We thought it was a fight for survival."[3] The construction of the Market East Station in the 1970s and 1980s established Filbert Street as Chinatown's southern border. As a result of the construction of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, which opened in 1993, the Chinatown buildings on Arch Street, up to the intersection of 13th Street, were demolished.[7] In addition, a federal prison, the Federal Detention Center, Philadelphia, opened in the area. AsianWeek said "Each was built with much compromising, and now they form a circle around Chinatown’s current core of about five city blocks."[3]

By 1998, community leaders had taken a property bounded by 8th Street, 9th Street, Callowhill, and Vine in order to establish a $7 million townhome complex called Hing Wah Yuen (T: 興華園, S: 兴华园, P: Xīng Huá Yuán, "Prosperous Chinese Garden").[6]


As of the 2000 U.S. Census, the service area of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation had 1,362 residents in 459 households. Of the residents, 1,085 were Asian American, 152 were White American, 71 were African American, 31 were of other races, and 23 were Hispanic American. During that year the community had 509 housing units, with 50 of them being vacant and 85 of them being owner occupied.[8]

As of 1998 the wider Chinatown area had about 4,000 residents. Many of them worked in clothing assembly companies, restaurants, and related suppliers located in the area. As of that year, most residents were Chinese American. As of the 1990 U.S. Census the median income of Chinatown was under $15,000. The median income of the 47,000 residents of Center City Philadelphia as a whole was $60,000.[1] As of 2000, of the 4,000 residents of the wider area, about 70% have no English fluency.[3]

The Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation said that the area also serves about 250,000 Chinese Americans residing in Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.[3]


China Gate, view from the south

The Chinatown Friendship Gate at 10th and Arch Street is a symbol of cultural exchange and friendship between Philadelphia and its Chinese sister city of Tianjin. Launched by the Port Agreement signed in Tianjin, China, on November 11, 1982, the Gate was commissioned by the Department of Commerce and the Department of Public Property. It was completed in the winter of 1983-84 and dedicated on January 31, 1984.

The Gate is the first authentic Chinese Gate built in America by artisans from China.[9] Weighing about 88 tons and standing 40 feet high, the Gate has bright colors and elaborate designs that reflect early Chinese imperial construction. It has themes of mythical creatures and graphic patterns typical of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. A procession of mythical animals is featured on tiles. The phoenix is meant to ensure good luck. The dragon, said to have the magical power of retaining water in its mouth, is intended to protect the structure of the Gate and the community from fire. The four traditional Chinese characters on both sides of the Gate are, "費城華埠" (Fèichéng huá bù), which means Philadelphia Chinatown.

The Gate was repainted in 2008 with the help of Tianjin artisans using ancient techniques and traditional materials and funded by the City of Philadelphia and the help of Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation.[10] The Gate was rededicated on November 19, 2008.

Culinary attractions

933-935 Race Street. Both buildings are on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places.

Chinatown features a large number of restaurants featuring East Asian cuisines. 10th Street and Race Street host nearly a dozen different Hong Kong-style bakery cafes. Furthermore, there are restaurants serving Cantonese, Fujianese, Northern, Sichuan, and Taiwanese cuisine. Numerous restaurants in Philadelphia's Chinatown feature other Asian cuisines, such as Burmese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese.


The Chinatown station on SEPTA's Broad-Ridge Spur is located at 8th and Vine streets, and Market East Station is only a block from the Chinatown Friendship Gate. SEPTA also provides local bus transportation to the area.

At one time China Airlines provided a private complimentary bus service from the Holy Redeemer Church in the Philadelphia Chinatown to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York to facilitate transportation for passengers for its flights to Taipei, Taiwan.[11][12]


Primary and secondary schools

Public schools


  • Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation
  • Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (Chinese)
  • "Chinatown Housing Site Upgrade Hing Wah Yuen Housing Development A sense of place inspired by the heritage of the residents." Synterra Ltd.
  • "Building the Gold Mountain: Philadelphia's Chinatown", Historical Society of Pennsylvania
  • Weyrich, Noel. "Northern Blights." Philadelphia City Paper. July 6–13, 2000.
  • Holy Redeemer Catholic Church and School /(Chinese)
  • Historic Photographs of Chinatown,

External links

  1. ^ a b c d Wallace, David J. "Near Philadelphia's Chinatown, 51 New Homes." The New York Times. March 8, 1998. p. 3. Retrieved on November 8, 2011.
  2. ^ "History of Chinatown." Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation. Retrieved on November 8, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h AsianWeek Staff and Associated Press. "Philadelphia Chinatown Wins Stadium Fight. AsianWeek. November 24–30, 2000. Retrieved on November 8, 2011.
  4. ^ "History." Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation. Retrieved on January 21, 2009.
  5. ^ Jeff Gammage (Nov 17, 2013). "Chinatowns Threatened in Eastern US Cities". Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on Feb 2, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Wallace, David J. "Near Philadelphia's Chinatown, 51 New Homes." The New York Times. March 8, 1998. 1. Retrieved on November 8, 2011.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Wallace, David J. "Near Philadelphia's Chinatown, 51 New Homes." The New York Times. March 8, 1998. 2. Retrieved on November 8, 2011.
  8. ^ "Demographic Profile." Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation. Retrieved on November 8, 2011.
  9. ^ Yi, Lou. "Friendship Gate in Chinatown." The Philadelphia Inquirer. Monday May 14, 2007. Retrieved on June 1, 2009.
  10. ^ "Painting Chinatown Red" The Temple News. Retrieved on June 1, 2009.
  11. ^ "Complimentary Bus Service Provided To/From JFK International Airport Terminal One." China Airlines. Retrieved on January 20, 2009.
  12. ^ "China Airlines releases special online promotions." Taipei Times. Friday August 27, 2007. Page 4. Retrieved on January 28, 2009.
  13. ^ "Gen. George A. McCall Elementary School Geographic Boundaries." School District of Philadelphia. Retrieved on November 8, 2011.
  14. ^ a b Kadaba, Lini S. "AN EFFORT TO SPEAK TO MORE STUDENTS \ THE SCHOOL DISTRICT IS EXTENDING THE REACH OF ITS BILINGUAL PROGRAMS." The Philadelphia Inquirer. October 6, 1998. B01 City & Region. Retrieved on November 8, 2011.
  15. ^ a b Jackson, Leigh. "SCHOOL BOARD TACK: SLASH, UNSLASH." Philadelphia Daily News. May 28, 1994. 06 Local. Retrieved on November 8, 2011.
  16. ^ a b c "Chinatown to get charter school." The Philadelphia Inquirer. March 10, 2005. B01 Local News Philadelphia & its Suburbs.
  17. ^ "Horace Furness High School Geographic Boundaries." School District of Philadelphia. Retrieved on November 8, 2011.
  18. ^ Snyder, Susan. "Selling schools - to families, A new campaign touts 20 Center City sites. Its aim: Retain the middle class. Schools pitch aims at stemming flight of the middle class." Philadelphia Inquirer. Monday August 22, 2005. City-D A01 Local. Retrieved on November 8, 2011.
  19. ^ "费城民艺特许学校新楼开幕庆典." Epoch Times. Retrieved on November 8, 2011.
  20. ^ "About Us." Folk Arts - Cultural Treasures Charter School. Retrieved on November 8, 2011.
  21. ^ "Independence Branch." Free Library of Philadelphia. Retrieved on November 8, 2011.



See also

The Philadelphia Community College system serves Chinatown.

The Free Library of Philadelphia operates area public libraries. As of 1998 there are no public library branches within Chinatown.[7] The Independence Branch (T: 獨立宮圖書館, S: 独立宮图书馆, P: Dúlì Gōng Túshūguǎn) serves residents living in Chinatown.[21]

Colleges and libraries

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia operates Catholic schools. The Holy Redeemer Chinese Catholic Church and School (T: 費城華人天主教教堂暨培德學校, S: 费城华人天主教教堂暨培德学校, p: Fèichéng Huárén Tiānzhǔjiào Jiàotáng jì péi dé Xuéxiào) was constructed in 1941. David J. Wallace of The New York Times said that it was "a leading Chinatown institution."[7] Historically many Chinatown residents enrolled their children in the school, and the community used the church and school complex as a meeting place and a community center.[3] In the 1990s the school lost much of its schoolyard due to expansion of the Vine Street Expressway.[7] In 2005 it was the only school in Chinatown.[16]

Private schools

As of 1998 there were no public schools within Chinatown.[7] In 2005 the Philadelphia School Reform Commission approved the creation of the charter school FACTS in Chinatown. At the time the Chinatown Community Development Corporation opposed the creation of the charter school, saying that it was not necessary and that it would hurt enrollment figures at McCall and Holy Redeemer.[16]

In 1993 the school district began a school bus route between Chinatown and McCall. The district was not required to install the route, but parents advocated for the route because they believed that traffic at Market Street and Washington Square endangered their children. When the district proposed cutting the route in 1994, parents complained.[15] In a two-year period until 1998, the number of Chinese students at McCall doubled. In 1998 Chinese students were 25% of McCall's 650 person student body.[14]

Folk Arts - Cultural Treasures Charter School (FACTS, T: 民藝特許學校, S: 民艺特许学校, Mín Yì Tèxǔ Xuéxiào[19]), a K-8 public charter school, is located in Chinatown.[20]

For high school, most area residents are zoned to Horace Furness High School in South Philadelphia.[17] In another section, residents are served by Benjamin Franklin High School.[18]

[16] 1 mile (1.6 km) south of Chinatown. As of 2005 most residents who are unable to afford tuition to send their children to private school send their children to McCall.[15],Society Hill located in [14][13]

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