Locke, California

Historic Chinese Town

Welcome sign on north side of Locke Street

Located 75 miles from San Francisco, in the Sacramento river Delta, Locke is the only remaining authentic Chinese village in the United States of America. Although many cities in America have a Chinatown, Locke is the only separate Chinese community that was built by, and exclusively for, Chinese immigrants.

Window in the River Road Art Gallery in Locke, CA

Locke was virtually unknown outside of California until a book entitled "Bitter Melon" by Jeff Gillenkirk with photographs by James Motlow was published. The photograph in the window is featured on the front cover of this widely acclaimed book.

At one time, 600 residents, all of whom were Chinese, lived in this three square block community. Now the permanent population of the town is less than 100, and less than a dozen of the residents are Chinese.

The origin of the Chinese town of Locke dates back to 1915 when a fire in the neighboring town of Walnut Grove destroyed the city's Chinatown. Locke was established by Lee Bing, on land owned by George Locke in 1915. There were two sections in the Walnut Grove Chinatown, one of which was populated by Chinese immigrants from Chungshan and the other by immigrants from Sze Yap in China. The Chungshan group decided to rebuild their community a half mile south of Walnut Grove where there were already three buildings in a tiny hamlet called Lockeport.

To get to Locke from Sacramento, take Interstate 5 South and exit onto Twin Cities Road, then follow the signs to the town of Walnut Grove, which is one half mile south of Locke. It is easy to miss Locke as you are driving down the River Road on top of the Sacramento river levee. The town buildings which face the highway extend for only one block, but welcome signs face the River Road on each side of Locke Street, marking the turn into the town.

Locke Street, looking west toward the River Road

Chinese Store on the River Road, looking south

If you are driving south, you will see a welcome sign on the south side of Locke Street, just before you get to the Yuen Chong General Store shown in the photograph above. If you miss your turn, just drive down the River Road to the end of the line of buildings facing the highway and turn left onto Levee Street, then left onto Key Street, which parallels the one-way Main Street through Locke.

The town of Locke has only three major streets, and that's counting the River Road which runs north and south past the town. The other two streets are Main Street, lined with commercial buildings, and Key street, which is the residential section.

Gambling Halls

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