Celebrating its 100th year anniversary on May 9, the town of Locke is America’s last rural Chinese town and Sacramento County’s own historical gem. The aftermath of a fire in 1915 caused Chinese immigrants from Walnut Grove to begin building a bustling center of commerce.
Locke holds a very special place in Sacramento and the nation; it is the only town in the U.S. built by the Chinese for the Chinese alone and it is still a living community welcome to visitors free of charge.
Locke’s current atmosphere holds an air of nostalgia, authenticity and charm. It is a place where time seemingly has stopped, and yet, a small, resilient population of 80 people still lives there. In its heyday in the 1940s, Locke bustled with shops, fish markets, gambling halls, a theater and a school. Today, the majority of the town has been left untouched and unrestored, much to the delight of visitors. The residents of Locke have adapted to the times with modern plumbing and electrical systems, but have preserved the original buildings.
A former boarding house now stands as a visitor’s center, museum, and research facility operated by the California State Parks and the Locke Foundation. The Chinese School, gambling hall, and social center have all converted into exhibits to preserve their rich history. Until his death in 1961, the owner of Al’s Place Restaurant was more famous for his antics than his food; at present, the restaurant and bar remains as a popular eatery, open 7 days a week.
With only three main streets, the town is ornately lined with unique galleries, shops, and even boasts its own Toilet Bowl Garden. The entire site of Locke was declared a National Historic Landmark and listed in the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service. There is no charge to visit and explore the town and surrounding areas, unless you opt for a $5 tour.
“In commemorating Locke’s Centennial, we celebrate the rich cultural traditions and historical roots which helped it achieve national recognition as a Historic Landmark in 1990,” said Supervisor Don Nottoli. “Visitors to Locke and surrounding communities are welcomed and we encourage people of all ages to enjoy the unique sights and places of interest which abound in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.”
The 100Th Anniversary Celebration of Locke, called the “The Legacy Lives On” will be held on May 9, from noon – 4 p.m., with a program that includes traditional Asian entertainment, an author lecture by Lawrence Tom, a grand prize drawing, and lunch by Louie’s Restaurant and Catering.
“We look forward to the region joining us in celebrating this incredible historical gem,” said District 2 Supervisor, Patrick Kennedy. “It’s not only part of our heritage, it’s a part of our rich Delta culture. It is important that Locke keeps its integrity for generations to come. Sacramento is fortunate to have our own piece of history embedded in this quaint town.” Former District 2 Supervisor Jimmie Yee was a frequent supporter of the town and donated $3,000 in congratulations of the centennial celebration.
Writer: Gospel Cruz, Communication and Media Intern