Heinlenville and Nihonmachi
Archaeology of Early Chinese and Japanese San José
History of Heinlenville and Nihonmachi (432 KB PDF).
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Heinlenville was San José’s third Chinatown. It was constructed in 1887 by local businessman, John Heinlen in partnership with San José’s Chinese leaders after the Market Street Chinatown was destroyed by arson. It grew into a thriving community, home to storekeepers, laborers and their families. Heinlenville’s stores, restaurants and boarding houses became an important base for Chinese and Japanese immigrant agricultural workers in the Santa Clara valley.
By the early 1900s, Japanese businesses had begun to develop along Sixth Street on the edge of Heinlenville. San José’s modern Japantown grew from these early beginnings. Heinlenville declined in the late 1920s, and after 1932 was demolished to make way for the City of San José Corporation Yard. Japantown however, survived the World War II internments.
Today, the Heinlenville block bounded by Taylor, Jackson, Sixth and Seventh streets is slated for development. Archaeologists from the Anthropological Studies Center, Sonoma State University are working with the Redevelopment Agency, City of San José to unearth selected areas of Heinlenville and early Japantown.
Our excavations in March 2008 and April 2009 uncovered the remains of houses, restaurants, and stores, as well as those of Heinlenville’s original Ng Shing Gung Temple. These investigations will help us understand the lives of early Chinese and Japanese settlers in San José.