Pell Street in Chinatown, New York City

America's Chinatowns

Preserving a Vibrant Past for a Thriving Future

  • Support Chinatowns

    Sign our petition today to commit to the cultural preservation of America’s Chinatowns for future generations, so their vibrant pasts can remain at the heart of their thriving and prosperous futures.

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America’s Chinatowns sit at an irreplaceable crossroads of history, culture, and identity. Among the oldest remaining immigrant enclaves in the country, Chinatowns are still home to hundreds of thousands of residents, workers, mom-and-pop businesses, and legacy institutions. Together, these strong and resilient communities form a network of historic places across the country that connect us to our past, anchor us in the present, and show us the path to a more equitable future.

Today, however, many of America’s Chinatowns are disappearing. No strangers to change, these communities nevertheless face compounding threats that put at risk these special old places where countless lives, memories, and stories began and continue to unfold.

As part of our commitment to protect America’s historic places, we at the National Trust for Historic Preservation—together with partners and communities—are researching, elevating, and building coalitions that sustain and support historic Chinatowns across the United States. Together, we can protect these vital places now and into the future to directly improve the lives of people who find belonging and connection in Chinatowns.

The Threats Facing Chinatowns Today

Chinatowns first formed to support a working class who tirelessly built our nation’s infrastructure, put clothing on our bodies, and grew and prepared food to feed a growing country. Today, these centers of living tradition and culture are powered by family-run mom-and-pop shops and institutions where people shop locally and reinvest every dollar back into their community.

Chinatowns also continue to function as safe havens for generations of new immigrants finding their footing as they pursue their American dream, and they remain irreplaceable hubs for people of all backgrounds.

Yet, many Chinatowns throughout history have been impacted and harmed by development pressure, gentrification, displacement, and inequitable planning practices. More recently, distress from pandemic-related closures, as well as an alarming rise in xenophobia and anti-Asian sentiment, has further threatened Chinatowns. With each storefront that shutters before its time, and each place that disappears, we risk losing connection to our past and our ability to tell the full American story.

Listen to a conversation with award-winning cookbook author, culinary historian, and Chinatown activist Grace Young about taking action to support historic Chinatowns across the country. Learn about how Young became a fierce advocate and the unofficial voice for saving Chinatowns. From PastForward 2022.

How the National Trust Is Protecting Chinatowns

As the United States’ leading national preservation nonprofit, with a long history of partnership and impact supporting Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) historic places, the National Trust is leveraging its expertise in convening thought leaders, grantmaking, research and mapping, storytelling, advocacy, and community outreach to help local communities address the urgent and widespread challenges facing Chinatowns.

With generous support from America’s philanthropic community, and in partnership with Chinese American and AAPI communities across the United States, the National Trust will:

  • Host a series of national Chinatown roundtables with local leaders, interested parties, practitioners, advocates, and other partners from Chinatown communities across the United States to connect, share, and elevate place-based solutions for their common threats and challenges.
  • Establish a Chinatown Community Preservation Fund that supports current and future cultural preservation needs of America’s Chinatowns, including backing legacy Chinatown businesses and institutions, preserving these unique places' architectural fabric, and publicly interpreting their stories.
  • Expand the Mapping Chinatowns Project by documenting more Chinatowns and other places that tell the stories of Chinese Americans.

With this initiative—the first and only nationwide effort of this scale and scope—we have the opportunity to draw the nation’s attention to this cultural crisis, stem the tide of loss, and celebrate Chinatowns’ essential role in American society. We can’t do this without you. Please join us in supporting and protecting Chinatowns so their vibrant pasts can remain at the heart of their thriving and prosperous futures.

Join us in supporting and amplifying the collective legacy and future of Chinatowns as an enduring celebration of American heritage, culture, and community.