Hidden Histories of the International District - Atlas Obscura
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Seattle, Washington

Hidden Histories of the International District

Join activist and community leader Ron Chew and photographer Dean Wong for this special walking tour of Seattle's historic Chinatown-International District.

Unlike other Chinatowns across the nation, the Chinatown-International District (CID) is a cultural center for many different Asian–Pacific Islander communities with many different histories of immigration. The neighborhood is subject to the extreme pressures of urban development, upzoning, and displacement of long-time residents.

On this 1.5-hour walking tour, you’ll hear firsthand histories from two of the International District’s last living activists, Ron Chew and Dean Wong. Together, we’ll explore significant histories of Asian-American immigration and activism. Along the way, we’ll visit historic sites like the Panama Hotel and the World War II memorial to Chinese-American veterans in Hing Hay Park. View the Roger Shimomura mural at the Gordon Hirabayashi building and learn about Seattle’s history of Japanese-American internment. You’ll have a chance to hear stories about community leaders like Bob Santos and Donnie Chin to understand the legacy that these activists left behind, while also visiting family-owned businesses like the Sun May Co. and other places around the ID that formerly housed a Chinese hand laundry and one of the neighborhood's original chop suey joints - The Hong Kong Restaurant.

Ron Chew is a lifelong Seattle resident whose parents were Chinese immigrants who worked in the restaurant and garment industries in Seattle’s International District. Ron edited the International Examiner newspaper and his work as socially conscious community journalist facilitated his involvement in a number of labor and social justice organizations operating in Seattle, including the Alaska Cannery Workers Association, the International District Economic Association, Seattle Rape Relief, and the Organization of Chinese Americans. Ron directed The Wing Luke Museum for decades and played an instrumental role in turning around the struggling museum to set its course to become the culturally thriving and financially viable institution for which it is known today. He is also the author of Remembering Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes: the legacy of Filipino American labor activism (UW Press). Ron is presently at work on a memoir which includes stories of vanished Seattle from the past 50 years.

Dean Wong is an award-winning photojournalist who has been documenting Asian-American life for nearly 40 years. The city of Seattle and King County, Washington, declared March 8, 1995, Dean Wong Day to honor his efforts documenting the Asian and Pacific American community. Chin Music Press published Seeing the Light, a collection of photographs by Dean that extensively chronicles Seattle’s Chinatown.

Additional Details

  • Meet in Canton Alley, which is immediately adjacent to The Wing Luke Museum at 719 King Street. (Access via King Street.)
  • We will be walking for 1.5 hours and visiting both indoor and outdoor sites. Please wear comfortable walking shoes.
  • Street parking is available, though we recommend public transportation. 
  • This tour will run rain or shine. Dress appropriately.


Email Shin Yu Pai at shinyu.pai@atlasobscura.com.

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Advance ticket sales only. All ticket sales are final. No refunds or exchanges.