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10 of the best Chinatowns in the U.S.

By: Josh Lew on June 12, 2015, 3:55 p.m.
The only Chinese restaurant in Locke, California

Photo: Mitch Lorens/flickr

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Locke, California

The term "Chinatown" usually brings to mind a dense urban neighborhood. That is the polar opposite of the kind of landscape found in Locke, California. Today designated as a historic district, Locke is one of the rare examples of a small town Chinatown. Located in the Sacramento River Valley, Locke was a nondescript hamlet until Chinese businessmen established a hotel and retail spaces there. More people, most of them from the Taishanese dialect group, began relocating, usually because they wanted to escape discrimination in the area's larger cities.

Locke's namesake, George Locke, owned most of the land in and around the town. Because laws forbade immigrants from owning farm land, Locke leased the land to local residents. This swelled the town's population even further. In the 1940s, 600 people lived in town, and the population more than doubled during harvest seasons. Locke is no longer an active Chinatown, but it is on the National Register of Historic Places and functions as a tourist destination. Many of the buildings that housed the original Chinese businesses are still standing today.