During the first 20 years of the 20th century, several Chinese owned laundry shops were located in the vicinity of Broad (pictured above) and Adams Street. Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida. Between 1850 and 1882, over 300,000 Chinese entered the United States from the Kwangtung and Fukien provinces. Initially settling along the west coast, many moved east to escape virulent prejudice, and built a life by establishing businesses that did not take excessive capital or compete with local residents. In various cities, the Chinese concentrated in one occupation, commercial laundries. By 1886, seven Chinese-owned laundries were operating in Jacksonville. Instead of establishing segregated ethnic neighborhoods, early immigrants in the south opened businesses in areas where they could make a living. A 1913 Sanborn map illustrating the proximity between two Chinese laundries and brothels (labeled F.B.) in LaVilla's red light district. Courtesy of the Jacksonville Public Library Special Collections Department. Following the arrival of the railroad terminal, West Adams Street transitioned into an environment filled with small hotels, businesses, and tenement housing catering to nearby wharves, rail terminals and freight depots. Between Adams and the railroad terminal, a red light district emerged along Ward (Houston) Street. Dominated by bordellos, such as the New York Inn, Turkish Harlem, Senate, Spanish Marie and The Court, the district became known as "The Line" with 60 bordellos. Along with hotels such as the Northern, Newport and the Little Ritz, this setting created an economic opportunity for the laundry business, leading to LaVilla emerging as a concentrated location for Chinese-owned businesses and residences. A list of Chinese owned laundries in an early 20th century city directory. Courtesy of the Jacksonville Public Library Special Collections Department. By 1910, 14 of the city's 25 Chinese-owned laundries were concentrated along or within two blocks of West Adams Street between Johnson and Clay Streets. Laundry owners tended to live above their stores and workers boarded with the shop owner or in adjacent residences. Wah Hop operated a restaurant at his residence at 802 Ward (Houston) Street and a laundry at 713 West Adams in 1913. Within a two block radius of Hop's business, other laundries in operation were owned by Sam Sing, Jim Lee, Charlie Lee, L.C. Park, Joe Sing, Charley Lee, Mow Sing and Charlie Sing. The 800 block of West Adams Street during the 1970s. For several years, Charlie Lee operated one of his two LaVilla laundry shops at 806 West Adams (building on the left). Courtesy of the City of Jacksonville. At the time, 67% of Jacksonville's early 20th century Chinese population lived in LaVilla. Despite the small but concentrated population, Chinese immigrants faced the constant threat of discrimination, including an incident in 1900 where 32 laundrymen were arrested and held in jail, facing deportation until they could prove that they were U.S. citizens. The following year, police raided the residence of George Gong, arresting eleven immigrants for gambling. Similar to general living arrangements of the time, Gong operated a tea and China goods shop at the address that was also his primary residence. Notwithstanding the challenges associated with being minorities in segregation-era Jacksonville, by 1920, Chinese immigrants owned and operated 79 percent of commercial laundries in the city. During the 1920s George Gong operated his own Chinese restaurant in the middle of Downtown Jacksonville. Courtesy of the Jacksonville Public Library Special Collections Department. Ultimately, downtown's Chinese community would succumb to the Great Depression, strict immigration laws and technological innovation. By 1960, the last remaining Chinese-owned laundry was operated Jim Quan at 602 West Ashley Street. With LaVilla being home to 36% of the city's early immigrant population, much of downtown's multicultural history and heritage was forever lost with the 1990s River City Renaissance razing of the district. Unlike the handful of buildings remaining on Ashley Street that harken back to the area's emergence as a Jazz and Blues mecca, only an abandoned building that originally housed Fire Station No. 4 remains of a district that was once littered with Chinese-owned laundries and restaurants. The structures highlighted in red remain standing in 2017. The remaining buildings in this 1930s aerial of the area have been demolished. As we continue our community's quest to discover and build upon what makes downtown a special place, removing the dust covering our lost multicultural and ethnic history should be at the top of the list. This block of West Adams was representative of small hotels, tenements and retail storefronts that once dominated this section of LaVilla. The remains of this early 20th century multicultural district was lost during the demolition of the neighborhood in the mid-1990s. Courtesy of the City of Jacksonville. This article by Ennis Davis, AICP, was originally published by the Florida Times-Union on October 31, 2017. Davis is a certified senior planner and graduate of Florida A&M University. He is the author of the award winning books “Reclaiming Jacksonville,” “Cohen Brothers: The Big Store” and “Images of Modern America: Jacksonville.” Davis has served with various organizations committed to improving urban communities, including the American Planning Association and the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. A 2013 Next City Vanguard, Davis is the co-founder of Metro Jacksonville.com and ModernCities.com — two websites dedicated to promoting fiscally sustainable communities — and Transform Jax, a tactical urbanist group. Contact Ennis at edavis@moderncities.com