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Chinatown, Honolulu Hawaii

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Chinatown, Honolulu Hawaii

Chinatown is a neighborhood community located near Honolulu, Hawaii and is known for its Chinese ancestry. This particular Chinatown is one of the oldest in the United States. It is well known for its open air markets and vendors selling their wares and with the recent revitalization of the area including the reopening of the Hawaii Theatre, the area is once again a popular sightseeing destination.

The first Chinese to visit the islands landed in the late 1700's, however it wasn't until the 1850's that Chinese immigrants began arriving in large numbers. Most came as contract workers for the sugar plantations, and once their contracts were concluded they began to settle in the area to run a community of family stores. The Chinatown area suffered two devastating fires, one in 1886 and the other in 1900. The fire of 1886 burned for three days and consumed a total of eight blocks. It was estimated that 7,000 Chinese lost their homes. The fire of 1900 was deliberately set by the Honolulu Fire Department at the request of the Department of Health. The idea was to eradicate the buildings that were infected with the Bubonic Plague. The first case of the plague was in 1899. January 20, 1900 the fire set got out of control due to the shifting winds and by the time it was under control. 38 blocks were destroyed, nearly all of Chinatown. Again the buildings were rebuilt with none over four stories high, and most were built of mortar instead of wood. In 1904 the Oahu Market was opened and its simple functional design, a covered open air space with stalls, is still in use today to sell fresh produce and seafood.

The revitalization effort has had a positive impact on the community, the Hawaii Theatre was re-opened in 1996. The area around the theatre is known as the Arts district. In 2005 a small park near the corner of Bethel and Hotel Streets was opened and is called Chinatown Gateway Park.