Seattle’s Chinatown-International District has been officially recognized as a historic place since 1986. Earlier this month the National Trust for Historic Preservation included the Seattle Chinatown-International District on its list of America’s 11 most endangered historic places in 2023. This annual list was first created in 1988 and this is the first time a place from Washington state has been included on it.
Read on for all the details.
The Seattle Chinatown-International District (also known as the CID) has a rich, unique history. According to the Wing Luke Museum, much of the neighborhood still resembles the way it looked when it was created in 1910. It is a diverse hub that is rich with not only Chinese culture but also Japanese, Vietnamese, Filipino, and Black cultures.
The CID has faced challenges before now. These include the disruptive construction of highways and sport stadiums in the 1960s and ’70s as well as recent increases in rent outpacing residents’ income, leading to a housing crisis.
The latest threat to the CID is the addition of a new light rail station in the neighborhood. Sound Transit is currently working towards a final decision regarding the location of the new station, with an analysis of the proposed sites to take place prior to a final vote by the Board.
Here is the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s reasoning for the CID’s inclusion on their list:
Historically, residents and supporters of Chinatowns have fought—and continue to fight—large-scale development projects that demand they and other communities of color accept disproportionate harm in the name of progress for all. This year we highlight two such communities—Seattle Chinatown-International District and Philadelphia Chinatown—where residents, businesses, and other supporters are demanding that decision-makers center their voices, illuminating more equitable paths forward for these irreplaceable neighborhoods.
Local activists have raised concerns that the construction of the new light rail station will disrupt and displace businesses and residents. Transit Equity for All, Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, and Seattle’s Wing Luke Museum are all advocating for the CID in this process. We have linked to their websites so you can read their concerns in detail and get more information.
You can see the full list of America’s 11 most endangered historic places in 2023 on the National Trust for Historic Preservation website.