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​When Fresno located along a new railroad line in the 1860s, many of the original settlers were Chinese, expert brick makers who began building a city. Soon, however, they were hustled off to live on the west side of the tracks. Racially segregated residential enclaves were common in California in the 19th century. Chinatown was established here around 1872. Most of the cultural and ethnic communities got their start here.

There are eleven documented groups of people who were located in the Chinatown area. They include people originally from Africa, Armenia, China, Greece, Japan, Italy, Mexico, the Philippines and Portugal, as well as Basque people from Northern Spain/Southern France and Volga Russians from Germany. Each brings a history and culture that has contributed to the vibrancy of Chinatown over the years.

Fresno’s Chinatown is one of the oldest areas of Fresno and while it was born of segregation, it now represents Fresno’s range of cultural and ethnic diversity. In the 1880s, more than one-third of Fresno residents were building their homes and businesses on “the other side of the tracks.” These communities contribute significantly to the current Fresno region. While most are still struggling for economic and social justice, they continue to make Fresno culturally rich with potential for becoming inclusive. To honor their cultures, we have founded the Chinatown Cultural Gallery.  

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