(This feature first appeared in Pacific Magazine on January 1, 2006. The text below has not been changed. Of course, The Wing Luke Asian Museum was successful in raising the last third of the 23 million needed for moving two blocks from their old location to this new old one.)
The Wing Luke Asian Museum has raised more than two-thirds of the 23 million it needs to restore and arrange the 60,000 feet within these brick walls into a new home for what is the only pan-Asian Pacific American museum in the U.S.
The opportunity to move less than two blocks from its now old home on 7th South near Jackson (in a converted car repair garage) into the East Kong Yick Building on King Street is motive enough to sustain an ambitious capital campaign. But this opportunity for the museum to expand its role in the community required the cooperation of an earthquake and the 95 year-old building’s many shareholders – some of whom had lived or worked in the building or even descended from those who had built it.
As the old story goes, in 1910 — soon after the extensive Jackson Street regrade had lowered this intersection at 8th s. and King Street about as many feet as the four story building is high – 170 Chinese-American shareholders joined to finance the building of the East Kong Yick and its neighbor across Canton Alley (here far right) the West Kong Yick building. And many of them also joined their hands in the construction.
In 2001, the hotel’s ninety-first year, the Nisqualli Earthquake shook up both the building and the hotel’s by then venerable routines. The Kong Yick had been home not only for single workingmen – Chinese, Japanese and Filipino – but also families and the extended family associations that were the sustainers for a vulnerable community of minorities. This social net was also a social center where basic needs and services were charmed with entertainments: the many traditional games and shows that the immigrants had brought with them and loved. After the quake the building’s shareholders turned to the museum for help.
The Wing Luke Asian Museum plans to move over to East Kong Yick in 2007. Part of its designs include preservation of the building’s Wa Young Company storefront (third from the alley, near the center) and the hotel manager’s office. One of the buildings typical rooms will also be restored and appointed with traditional fixtures and furniture.