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Utah's Foremost Platform for Undergraduate Research Presentation
2013 Abstracts

Whatever Happened to Salt Lake City’s Chinatown?

Licia Kim, Utah Valley University

Academic Affairs

Utah is a state that was largely settled by immigrants, and among those immigrants were hundreds of Chinese people. For over 70 years, Salt Lake City was home to one of the most prominent Chinatowns in the Intermountain West. Today, Utah is home to over 10,000 Chinese people, but there is no Chinatown in Utah. If the average Utahan is asked “Whatever happened to Salt Lake’s Chinatown?” the answer will invariably be a variation of “Salt Lake had/has a Chinatown?” Yes, Salt Lake City had a Chinatown and this research project answers the question of what happened to it. By exploring existing scholarly works, oral interviews and newspaper articles from the years that Plum Alley, Salt Lake City’s Chinatown, existed, I examined the creation, heyday, decline and eventual demise of Utah’s largest Chinatown. According to my research, the Plum Alley Chinatown disappeared because of a combination of cultural/religious differences, economic pressures, racial issues, and political/legal restrictions. As the significance of China, both to Utah and the United States as a whole, increases, an opportunity is created to increase public awareness of the Chinese experience in Utah’s history. Once this history is known, Plum Alley’s location, in a familiar, near-by location, will provide students in Chinese immersion classes (and their parents) with an opportunity to form a more immediate connection with these distant people. The goal of this research is therefore twofold: 1) to create a research article suitable for publication in a scholarly journal, and 2) to create a PowerPoint presentation and/or traveling historical exhibit on Plum Alley suitable for display at schools, public libraries and other community centers (such as the new South Salt Lake Chinatown shopping center). Simple entrance and exit surveys will allow me to track the effectiveness of the presentation/exhibit to increase visitor awareness of this little known chapter in Utah history.