Business owners Wong Gip She (right) and Wong Gip Low She (left) with their two sons Banford and David, c. 1916. Wong was a prominent figure of Chinatown South, establishing businesses, operating a de facto post office, and funding cultural events. (Photograph courtesy of the Chilliwack Museum and Archives, P7642)

Chilliwack’s Chinatowns, gold rush era featured in new museum exhibition

Two-in-one exhibition connects Royal BC Museum’s Gold Mountain Dream with Chilliwack’s lost Chinatowns

The current installment at the Chilliwack Museum combines two exhibitions in one as folks learn about B.C.’s 19th century gold rushes and Chinese immigration to Chilliwack during and after that time.

The Royal BC Museum’s travelling exhibition, Gold Mountain Dream! Bravely Venture into the Fraser Valley, is well-paired with local pieces of history featuring Chilliwack’s lost Chinatowns. The two-in-one exhibition comes alive with Chilliwack Chinese artifacts, audio recordings, and a video in and amongst the informative panels of Gold Mountain Dream.

The local portion of the two-in-one exhibition is based on the 2011 book Chilliwack’s Chinatowns: A History by Dr. Chad Reimer. Chilliwack’s Chinatowns (yes, there were two) spanned nearly 40 years.

Chinatown North (1896-1921) was the smaller of the two with about ten businesses located north of Yale Road near Five Corners. Chinatown South (1911-1934) was larger, being home to 150 residents and several businesses along both the north and south side of Yale Road between what is now Airport and Parr roads.

The largest organization in Chinatown South was the Chee Kung Tong (or the Chinese Freemasons) which was established in 1917. Its members were responsible for maintaining the well-being of the community.

Several fires destroyed both Chinatowns. A devastating fire in 1921 caused many Chinese residents to leave Chinatown North. Two fires in 1932 and 1934 ravaged Chinatown South. The loss of the Masonic Hall in 1932 meant that many of the records of the Chinese community in Chilliwack were lost.

A well-known Chinese-Canadian politician, Dorothy Kostrzewa (nee Chung), who grew up in Chilliwack’s Chinatown South and stayed after the fire of 1934, is also featured in the exhibition.

When she was elected to Chilliwack City Council in 1970, Kostrzewa (1928-2013) became the first Chinese-Canadian woman to hold political office in Canada. Her victory broke both racial and gender barriers. Her career on city council lasted 38 years.

The local portion of the exhibition also features artifacts like clothing, tools and games, plus panels of text on topics like work, farming, and social life, as well as the decline of the two Chinatowns and racism.

It was believed some of the fires that destroyed Chilliwack’s Chinatowns were arson, set by those who were trying to push the Chinese out of Chilliwack.

The Royal BC Museum’s travelling exhibition, Gold Mountain Dream! Bravely Venture into the Fraser Valley, makes up the majority of the installment at the museum.

It explores how the gold rush not only changed the landscapes and lives in B.C., but how this monumental event changed China, as people flocked to a rugged land in search of fortune.

Created by the Royal BC Museum in collaboration with the Canadian Museum of History, Gold Mountain Dream! tells the personal stories and sacrifices of Chinese migrants in the 1850s as they landed on British Columbia’s shores in search of gold. It is a fascinating account of adventure, heartbreak, and social upheaval.

The travelling exhibition has been on display in various cities and countries (including China) since the spring of last year. The text on the panels is in English and simplified Chinese.

Gold Mountain Dream! Bravely Venture into the Fraser Valley, featuring Chilliwack’s lost Chinatowns is on display at the Chilliwack Museum (45820 Spadina Ave.) until Oct. 8.

Hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Thursdays until 8:30 p.m., and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission: $3 for adults, $2 for seniors and students, free for kids 12 and under. Admission is free for Museum Members and their guests.


 

@PhotoJennalism
jenna.hauck@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Dorothy Kostrzewa (nee Chung) standing beside a truck belonging to her brother, Harry Chung, at their family home on Yale Road West in 1947; the Chinese Masonic Hall is visible in the background. (Photograph courtesy of the Chilliwack Museum and Archives, P7472)

Just Posted

Chilliwack to remember D-Day veterans on 76th anniversary of Normandy landing

Thousands died June 6, 1944, coming ashore on beaches in France while facing heavy German resistance

Road washout affecting section of Highway No. 3 near Manning Park

Road maintenance crews are on the scene, with an almost two kilometre long stretch impacted

Column: Patience and persistence required with green technology

Solar panels and wind farms aren’t yet where we need them to be, but does that mean we give up?

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

New platform allows readers to make a one-time or ongoing donation to support local journalism

Caretakers say goodbye to Gwynne Vaughan heritage house in Chilliwack after 17 years

Larry and Vicky Graitson have seen a lot of changes at the community park over the years

VIDEO: Injured bald eagle rescued in B.C. First Nations community

Bird suspected injured in fight, whisked off to Coquitlam rehab

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

New platform allows readers to make a one-time or ongoing donation to support local journalism

Human Rights Tribunal denies church’s request to toss out White Rock Pride Society’s complaint

Star of the Sea and White Rock Pride Society to go to Human Rights Tribunal hearing

Toronto Raptors’ Ujiri says conversations about racism can no longer be avoided

Thousands have protested Floyd’s death and repeated police killings of black men across the United States

‘I’m afraid’: Witnesses of wolf attack on senior near Prince Rupert worried about safety

Frank Russ shows where the unprovoked wolf attacked his father

Abbotsford’s UFV gym now without a sponsor

Partnership with Envision Financial ends, school seeking new organizations to partner with

Protesters prepare to rally against racism in front of Vancouver Art Gallery

Rally is in response to the deaths of black Americans and a Toronto woman

Protesters rally against anti-black, Indigenous racism in Toronto

Police estimated the crowd to be between 3,500 and 4,000 and said there was no violence

Most Read