Former location of Wa Chong Company store

Northeast corner of 2nd Avenue Extension S and S Washington Street

Chin Gee Hee Building, Seattle, 2007, Photo by Joe Mabel (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Chin Gee Hee Building, Seattle, 1937
Chin Gee Hee Building before 2nd Sreet Extension cut off left two windows, Seattle, ca. 1904
Phoenix Hotel (center) and Chin Gee Hee Building, Seattle
Intersection of Washington Street and Second Avenue Extension, Seattle, Courtesy Paul Dorpat
Chun Ching Hock Block building and Pheonix Hotel, Washington St and 2nd Avenue, Seattle, ca. 1906
Kwong Wa Chong Co. store, Chun Ching Hock Block building, Seattle, 1909

Second Avenue Extension S and S Washington Street

Seattle’s first Chinese settler, Chun Ching Hock, arrived from San Francisco in 1863. He initially found a job at the Yesler Mill cookhouse but had bigger ambitions. By 1868, Chun had saved enough money to open the Wa Chong Company general store on the tideflats south of Yesler Mill. He sold rice, sugar, tea, flour, and other Chinese goods, including opium (legal at the time) and fireworks. The store also served as a center for labor contracting, where employers hired Chinese workers as domestic servants, cannery workers, miners, and construction laborers, including well-known projects such as digging the Montlake and Fremont cuts of the ship canal and regrading downtown Seattle’s streets.

When the labor contracting business outgrew the store, it moved to a larger site with room for lodging, on the northeast corner of 2nd Avenue and Washington. Made of brick manufactured at Alki Point, the building that went up in 1876 was just the third brick structure in Seattle. It became the anchor for a growing Chinatown, with about 400 Chinese in 1884. The Wa Chong Company store (destroyed) eventually moved east to today’s International District and in 1900, Chun returned to China permanently; he remained an owner of the Wa Chong Company, as well as large blocks of Seattle real estate until his death in 1927. The Wa Chong Company store was a Seattle institution until 1953. The store’s final location, the East Kong Yick Building at 719 S King Street, houses the Wing Luke Museum.

The building across the street was built by Chun’s partner, Chin Gee Hee, in 1883. It, too, was part of the Wa Chong Company. The recessed balcony was a feature brought over from South China, the origin point for many of Seattle’s Chinese.

Walk east one block on S Washington Street to Third Avenue S. and the Union Gospel Mission on the southwest corner.

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