Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Locke – CA's last Chinese town

This Central Valley community recalls the days of Steinbeck.

Chinese apothecary on Locke's preserved main street.
Chinese apothecary on Locke's preserved main street.

The houses slant sideways and the opium dens are gone, but Locke, California, takes visitors back more than 90 years to a unique Chinese farming community. Thanks to the work of a few locals with a passion for history, the entire main street has been preserved and many stores and restaurants still operate.

Locke was established in 1915 when Chinese immigrants settled here. A permanent population of 600 lived alongside another 1,000 seasonal farm laborers who provided the Sacramento Delta with a major work force, helping to grow onions, potatoes and asparagus. They also tended the fruit orchards. When they couldn't find farm work, they found employment at canneries and packing houses.

Seasonal farmers stayed in the boarding house and paid $2.50 per month. The boarding house has been turned into a museum, where you can pick up a self-guided walking tour of Locke. The boarding house was originally built in 1909 to board the workers of the Southern Pacific Railroad shipping warehouse.

Families lived above their businesses, and children went to public school in nearby Walnut Grove. After regular school ended, children attended the Chinese School. Busts of Confucius and Sun Yat-sen still stand outside the school and desks are lined in rows inside.

A commemoration sits in the middle of the main street at the Locke Memorial Park and Monument. It pays tribute to Chinese immigrants who first came to California in search of gold, later becoming builders of the Sacramento Delta levees and the transcontinental railroads as well as developers of agriculture in the Central Valley.

Locke thrived for a time and had food markets, restaurants, dry goods stores, an opera house, a church and post office. The town also was well known for its five gambling houses, five brothels, speakeasies during Prohibition days – and even opium dens.

Along the main street you can still visit Dai Loy Gambling Hall owned by Lee Bing from 1915 to 1950. (Today the establishment is a museum of gambling paraphernalia.) Lee Bing also ran the Fat Moon Company and sold dry goods, hardware and herbal medicines.

Al the Wop's Saloon and Restaurant once operated a brothel; now you can eat a traditional American steak sandwich there. You can also pass by the Star Theater, which had a Chinese opera, gambling den and brothel, as well as the Lockeport Hotel, one of the first buildings in the town.

Walking past these businesses, you'll end at the Locke Garden Restaurant where you can enjoy lunch or dinner. This was Locke's first saloon and gambling hall.

By the 1940s, the children of these Chinese immigrants had moved away. Although streets are marked in both English and Chinese, out of about 60 locals only 10 are of Chinese descent. Still, the Locke Foundation continues to preserve the town’s history for visitors to enjoy.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Bobbi and Mark sleep above the lions in Alpine

Lions Tigers & Bears is not a zoo
Next Article

Sanctified and glorified at Encanto Southern Baptist Church

Life is important on this side of death, but what really matters is eternity.
Chinese apothecary on Locke's preserved main street.
Chinese apothecary on Locke's preserved main street.

The houses slant sideways and the opium dens are gone, but Locke, California, takes visitors back more than 90 years to a unique Chinese farming community. Thanks to the work of a few locals with a passion for history, the entire main street has been preserved and many stores and restaurants still operate.

Locke was established in 1915 when Chinese immigrants settled here. A permanent population of 600 lived alongside another 1,000 seasonal farm laborers who provided the Sacramento Delta with a major work force, helping to grow onions, potatoes and asparagus. They also tended the fruit orchards. When they couldn't find farm work, they found employment at canneries and packing houses.

Seasonal farmers stayed in the boarding house and paid $2.50 per month. The boarding house has been turned into a museum, where you can pick up a self-guided walking tour of Locke. The boarding house was originally built in 1909 to board the workers of the Southern Pacific Railroad shipping warehouse.

Families lived above their businesses, and children went to public school in nearby Walnut Grove. After regular school ended, children attended the Chinese School. Busts of Confucius and Sun Yat-sen still stand outside the school and desks are lined in rows inside.

A commemoration sits in the middle of the main street at the Locke Memorial Park and Monument. It pays tribute to Chinese immigrants who first came to California in search of gold, later becoming builders of the Sacramento Delta levees and the transcontinental railroads as well as developers of agriculture in the Central Valley.

Locke thrived for a time and had food markets, restaurants, dry goods stores, an opera house, a church and post office. The town also was well known for its five gambling houses, five brothels, speakeasies during Prohibition days – and even opium dens.

Along the main street you can still visit Dai Loy Gambling Hall owned by Lee Bing from 1915 to 1950. (Today the establishment is a museum of gambling paraphernalia.) Lee Bing also ran the Fat Moon Company and sold dry goods, hardware and herbal medicines.

Al the Wop's Saloon and Restaurant once operated a brothel; now you can eat a traditional American steak sandwich there. You can also pass by the Star Theater, which had a Chinese opera, gambling den and brothel, as well as the Lockeport Hotel, one of the first buildings in the town.

Walking past these businesses, you'll end at the Locke Garden Restaurant where you can enjoy lunch or dinner. This was Locke's first saloon and gambling hall.

By the 1940s, the children of these Chinese immigrants had moved away. Although streets are marked in both English and Chinese, out of about 60 locals only 10 are of Chinese descent. Still, the Locke Foundation continues to preserve the town’s history for visitors to enjoy.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Interact with Animals, On the Harbor with Hard Kombucha, Interior Design Home Tours

Events July 9-July 11, 2020
Next Article

Fabian Nunez fails to work magic for Mercury lobbying firm

Santee's Mayor Minto can't write his column
Comments
5

Hi, Thanks for your article on Locke, California. The Confucious and Sun-Yet-Sen statues were installed by Clarence Chu in May 2011. The town of Lockeport (before the name was shortened to Locke) dates back to the late 1800's and was founded by George W. Locke, who was born in New Hampshire of English ancestry and came to California during the Gold Rush in 1952 at the age of 22. The 1930 US Census accounts for 410 residents of Locke, California from 20 different countries of origin around the world, most of whom worked at the railyard and fruit cannery on the river in Locke. Fewer than 100 of the 400 Locke residents in 1930 were born in China. Locke was a multi-cultural town at that time and still is today. Population in 2013 is about 60 residents of whom two were born in China. The LMA Locke Management Association 13 member Board of Directors stated in a March 2011 letter to an attorney that their "responsibility includes notifying 400 Chinese descendants due to their own priority to purchase Locke real estate property." The board filed a lawsuit against me (I'm not-Chinese) for purchasing one of the 50 properties in the town. We go to Superior Court in September 2013. Google search on " California Locke dispute " for more. Thank you for allowing me to reply. M.Esch

July 16, 2013

Didn't Huell Howser do a profile on this town??????

July 16, 2013

Aaaaaw. I love & miss Huell Howser. :)

And @M_Esch: Thanks so much for that extra information!

July 17, 2013

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close