The Kam Wah Chung Heritage Site – a place that gives you the feel of Chinese reminisces. A quiet place with so many stories to tell, this historical landmark, located in John Day, is a timeless wonder of early Oregon history and the Chinese population that lived here.
Kam Wah Chung Heritage Site: A little history
The Kam Wah Chung Heritage Site originally started out as a Chinese grocery store and herbal apothecary. It was founded in the year 1887 by a Chinese entrepreneur named Lung On and Ing “Doc” Hay. It was built with the intention of being a trading post along with The Dalles Military Road during the years 1866-1867. Before long, Lung On, with his astute business acumen and English speaking skills, took Kam Wah Chung to new heights. Within a short span of time, it became a popular hangout place for people within the burgeoning Chinese community. Over the years it served as a site for their temple, post office, business center, automobile dealership, and even a social club!
Hay, on the other hand, became the talk of the town due to his skillful medical knowledge and through his wisdom of traditional Chinese remedies. His acupuncture and moxibustion knowledge made him a must-visit person for local as well as regional clientele, with people from even Alaska and Oklahoma visiting him for treatment!
But like they say, time takes its toll on almost everything. After gaining such significant success over time, the place was eventually closed in the year 1948.
Building the Cultural Museum
After the death of Ing Hay, Bob Wah, who was his nephew, suggested that the building and its content be used a cultural museum so as to preserve the heritage of Kam Wah Chung. In the year 1973 it was made part of the National Register of Historic Places. After the necessary restoration work, it was reopened in the year 1975. Now a heritage site, Kam Wah Chung again began receiving visitors from near and far, and soon became one of the most popular tourist destinations in Eastern Oregon. It was because of this popularity that the site was also named as a National Historic Landmark in the year 2005.
Today, people from not just the Chinese community, but from all communities, visit Kam Wah Chung to take an up-close-and-personal look at this well-preserved Chinese heritage in Oregon. It serves as a symbol of how Oregon’s history has been a place where all castes and creeds have contributed to Oregon’s cultural diversity of which we can all celebrate.
If you want to experience the mixed history of Oregon, then a visit to The Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site in John Day is a wonderful idea. Bring your family and friends for a small trip and find yourself traveling through history’s pages to experience what the place used to be more than a century back – Chinese style!