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A History of Seattle's International District (Quelle)

Seattle's International District, a neighborhood nestled south of downtown, is the cultural hub of the Asian American community. It rose not far from the waterfront, on reclaimed tide flats. During a gigantic city regrading project, the Jackson Street Regrade, completed in 1910, this muddy wasteland was filled in with earth, buildings were erected and the International District was born. It is perhaps the only area in the continental United States where Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, African Americans and Vietnamese settled together and built one neighborhood. In the beginning, sojourners from Asia - mostly single men - came by steamship and rail into the new port city, seeking refuge from poverty and war. They crowded into hotels, storefronts and employment halls which emerged near the railroad station and waterfront.
These men came when the city was young to work in the canneries, railroads, mines. Many worked in the businesses which grew up around these enterprises - laundries, hotels, restaurants, stores and gambling houses. They lived frugally, finding comfort in familiar surroundings shrouded from the harsh discrimination outside. Those that decided to stay brought wives, children and relatives to live with them. The first structures to go up in the new area were the Kong Yick buildings, financed by the entrepreneur Goon Dip, establishing the Chinese community in the area after it had been displaced from the original Chinatown location near 2nd Avenue and South Washington Street. The Japanese community developed a Nihonmachi or Japantown along Main Street bordering the new Chinese settlement. The Japanese businesses- restaurants, bathhouses, laundries, dry goods stores and markets - vanished when their owners were herded off to Internment Camps during World War II.
The Filipinos, the third Asian group to arrive, found their way into area hotels, seeking connections for work in the canneries. Some operated cafes, pool halls, barbershops and other small businesses. African Americans also settled in the area, especially during WWII, when war industry jobs were plentiful, establishing diners, groceries, taverns, tailor shops and night clubs.