More Out and About

Dear Liza,img_2655.jpeg

After we had seen the Chinatown Museum, Grandpa Nelson suggested we walk south and see what we could find out about Dr. Wo’s neighborhood on Alder and 3rd. We walked, looking around at the buildings. I took pictures as we went past old buildings so I could look them up later.

It turns out, there are quite a few buildings in this neighborhood that were standing in 1903. The Hamilton Building has beautiful clean lines and a modern look, but another (whose name I didn’t see) is very ornate and looks almost too pretty to be real.

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Too Pretty to be Real

The Bishop’s House from the Old Portland Cathedral is still standing, next door to where the Cathedral used to be. It was torn down and another cathedral rebuilt over on 19th Street, away from the danger of floods on the Willamette. But the Bishop’s House is still here.

We stood on the corner of SW 3rd and Alder, where Dr. Wo’s office stood in a small building. There is now a four story parking garage in its place. All the buildings at that intersection are modern and less interesting that I had hoped. I have to take a deep breath and chant “cities have to change or they die” a few times to come to peace with so much history coming down to make way for … cars.

Heading back to our car (yes, I know, I hate parking lots but I do sometimes use a car) we saw this old tiled entry in front of a deserted building. It means the building is probably from the 1890s, but there was no plaque to tell me.

It turns out Grandpa Nelson wanted some ice cream before we headed home, and there is a branch of Salt And Straw, a fabulous ice cream shop, in the Pine Street Market. It is called The Whiz Bang Bar and was delicious…chocolate shake for Grandpa Nelson, a vanilla custard swirl for me.

As we got into the car to head home, I noticed that we were parked behind the Kells Bar, which is famous for being “haunted”. But what I loved was the silly sign on the back, to make sure you didn’t forget where the bar was.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Portland’s Chinatown(s)

Dear Liza,

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The Hazeltine Building

In the story I am writing, there is a character who was also a real-life Chinese doctor here in Portland, Dr. C. Gee Wo. He advertised every day in the local newspaper, The Oregonian. He was very successful, also investing in other businesses and donating to charities here in Portland and all along the west coast.

In order to describe his neighborhood and office, I have been trying to learn what the Chinatown here in Portland was like in 1903. So you can imagine how happy I was when I learned that a brand new Chinese museum had opened up! Yesterday, Grandpa Nelson and I went to visit it.

But first, there was a doctor’s visit and then, lunch. We parked by a wonderful old building called The Hazeltine, which was built in 1893. Amazing stone work right out on the street!

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Pine Street Market

Across the street was the Pine Street Market, which is another old building that is now being shared by about five different restaurants. Checkerboard Pizza, Pollo Brava, Markum Ramen, and the Kim Jung Grill all vied for our attention.

We ate at “Bless Your Heart” Burgers, and they had wonderful burgers, fries for Grandpa Nelson, and Mexican Coke! I only have about two sodas a year, so I need to make them count.

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Cool Dragon Logo

Then we walked across Burnside, past Voodoo Donuts, and to the Portland Chinatown Museum. As I said, it is brand new. There are still pictures resting on the floor, waiting to be hung, and the model that shows how the museum is laid out is still sitting on a back table. But there are wonderful displays of Chinese stores and restaurants, and essays and photographs that show when Chinese folks came to America, what jobs they did, and where they lived.

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Mr. James Wong

I met James Wong, a retired teacherĀ  who is on the Board of museum. He told me that he was born and raised two blocks from this museum in the 1950s. He explained that there were really TWO “Old Chinatowns” in Portland. The one from the time of my story, 1903, was south of Burnside, along 2nd and 3rd Streets. The later one, from about 1905 onward, is north of Burnside. That would explain why Dr. Wo’s office is so far south, on Alder.

We read, looked and walked all over the museum, bought a book called Sweet Cakes, Long Journey by Dr. Marie Rose Wong, and went off to see what else we could see.

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Model of the Chinatown Museum

I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow!

Love, Grandma Judy

Dr. C. Gee Wo

Dear Liza,

I love researching history! Since my story takes place in 1903 Portland, I am getting to know about people who lived here then, and how things were for them. One thing that was really different was that there were laws against some people living here. These were called Exclusion Laws.

But life usually finds a way, as in the case of Dr. C. Gee Wo, a real Chinese person I have learned about and put into my story. Dr. Wo was from China and was an herbal doctor, using teas and herbal medicines to help make people better. He studied for many years, in China and America, to be good at his profession. He moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where he had a popular practice for eleven years, from 1889 to 1900.

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Dr. Wo’s ad in Portland newspapers, 1900 to 1910

During that time, he married a white lady name C. DeWitt (I can’t find her first name anywhere, just her first initial. Maybe Caroline? Celestine? Charlotte?) In 1900, they moved to Portland, Oregon, and Dr. Wo opened his herbal medicine practice.

At that time, the Exclusion Laws said Chinese people couldn’t own property, so Chinese needed to rent apartments, mostly in the neighborhood on the west side of the river. But Dr. Wo’s wife was white, so she could buy property where they wanted. They bought a small house, and, when business was better, built a bigger house next door.

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His ad from 1910 to 1920

As the years went on, Dr. Wo became a respected member of not just the Chinese community, but of the city of Portland. He donated to victims of the San Francisco Earthquake in 1906. He contributed to local causes and invested in businesses. He helped the city grow.

Dr. Wo retired about 1915, but stayed active in the community at least until 1921, when he made a large contribution to the local Community Chest fund. I haven’t found any information about him after that time, but I will keep looking. Being a history detective is exciting!

Love,

Grandma Judy