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Chicago’s Chinatown: Second Oldest Chinatown in the United States
Chicago’s very own Chinatown is the United States’ third largest ethnic-Chinese neighborhood (runner up to San Francisco and New York’s Chinatowns). Established in the early 1900s, Chicago’s Chinatown remains certifiably authentic and features older, multi-residence properties; however, houses for sale in Chicago Chinatown can be hard to come by. Adorned with a variety of Chinese restaurants and shops, this is the neighborhood to explore in the Midwest for genuine American-Chinese culture, and of course – Asian-American cuisine.
First, a Bit of History…
Chicago’s Chinatown wasn’t always located here, however. In 1870, after the transcontinental railroad was constructed, Chinese fled persecution and anti-Chinese riots in California, finding a place to settle and set up small businesses on Clark Street between Harrison and Van Buren Streets in Chicago’s Loop. By 1889, on these two blocks alone, 16 Chinese-owned shops were open for business. Of these small businesses, eight were grocery stores, two were butcher shops, and there was one restaurant.
Unfortunately, these two city blocks were not hospitable to the new transplants. They suffered from discrimination as well as rising rents, and in the early 1900s were compelled to leave the neighborhood to settle further south to Armour Square - the location we know today as Chinatown.
Walking around the neighborhood you can enjoy the Chinese-inspired architecture with its ornamental tiles and dragons, Chinese medicine shops, tea shops and other stores that preserve Chinese heritage.
What to See and Do in Chicago’s Chinatown
There are plenty of attractions and landmarks worth your while when you visit Chinatown. While visiting Chinatown, make your first stop on Wentworth Avenue as this is where the bulk of the neighborhood’s commercial establishments are congregated as well as the landmark Chinatown Gate. Plus, it’s pure eye candy.
Colorful murals adorn the walls and building facades, showcasing dragons and historic pictorials. In Chinatown Square you’ll be greeted by 12 bronze animal sculptures – each corresponding to an animal in the Chinese zodiac. You can also find a variety of restaurants and gift shops here. Linger for a bit and absorb the atmosphere. Varieties of Chinese are spoken, especially Cantonese, transporting you to what feels like mainland China.
No visit to Chinatown is complete without visiting Ping Tom Memorial Park. This 12-acre park along the banks of the Chicago River has a fabulous Chinese garden replete with bamboo and pavilion. During the summer, Ping Tom Park participates in Chicago’s “Movies in the Park” – watching a movie here is pure magic.
Come for the Parks and Murals, Stay for the Food
Let’s get down to business, shall we? Perhaps the most convincing pull to Chinatown is the authentic Chinese cuisine. We’re not talking Panda Express, okay? This is the genuine article, real Chinese cooking from family-run establishments. Given the flavor and texture of the local cuisine, we expect these recipes go back generations – perhaps all the way back to the homeland.
For a small bite, have some dim sum at Shui Wah. If you don’t mind communal dining, try Happy Chef Dim Sum House. To discover or recapture true Chinese cuisine dishes you may not find anywhere else, visit Lobster Kind Restaurant.
Finding Houses for Sale in Chicago Chinatown
We won’t kid you – scoring a residential property in the highly-condensed Chinatown is not easy. Houses for sale in Chicago Chinatown are hard to come by. This neighborhood includes mostly older multi-unit properties. Most of which are condos, lofts, and townhomes. Prices are affordable, ranging in the $300,000 for two-bedroom units. You may also find homes for sale in Chicago in Chinatown as well, but good luck!