:: Harry Lawton Riverside Chinatown Papers

Summary and Significance

This collection reflects a cluster of research and organizational activities undertaken by ethnohistorian Harry W. Lawton (who donated the collection to the library in March 1987) during the mid-1980s to document and commemorate the pioneer Chinese immigrants in Riverside and surrounding "Citrus Belt" communities. These activities were generally successful, producing solid cultural and institutional results.

During the summer of 1984 the Riverside Chinatown site in the Tequesquite Arroyo was threatened by immediate destruction. Although both the University of California and the Riverside Municipal Museum had already proposed documentary and exhibit projects to mark the 1985 centennial of the founding of Chinatown, it was the threat to the site itself which brought about widespread public interest in the local Chinese pioneers. Mr. Lawton joined several other scholars and local community leaders in organizing a citizens' committee to save the Chinatown site. Destruction was delayed and public funding was secured to conduct a professional archaeological investigation at the site during 1985.

The widely publicized successes of the "Chinatown Dig," in turn, stimulated a movement to create a "Chinatown Historical Park" on the site. Although enabling legislation was passed by the State Legislature in 1986 for the purchase of the site as a park, a variety of jurisdictional and technical problems complicated and slowed this project. In the meanwhile, the Great Basin Foundation of San Diego, which had conducted the "Chinatown Dig," prepared a two-volume publication documenting and contextualizing its findings. Mr. Lawton was a primary researcher and writer in this publication effort.

Along with efforts to document early Chinese society in the Riverside area, there was a simultaneous undertaking to commemorate the social and economic contributions of the Chinese pioneers. Under the leadership of the late Dr. Robert T. Poe, a physics professor at the University of California, Riverside, and local restauranteur, David Chang, a memorial Chinese pavilion was erected in Riverside's Main Library Plaza during the winter of 1986-1987. This effort involved extensive local fundraising, elaborate social "benefits," and a substantial donation from the government of Taiwan.


The newness of this collection contributes to its fine state of preservation. Processing included replacement of all base metal clips and staples with vinyl-covered paper clips. The whole collection was transferred to acid-free storage, with the exception of the sealed envelope in folder nr. 7. In 2000 when the sealed item was made available to researchers, it was placed in an acid free folder.


Held at the Riverside Main Library's Riverside Local History Resource Centre.

Brief List

Container 1

Folder 1: Lawton, Harry W., Correspondence, incoming. 1984-1986. (15 items in chronological order)

Folder 2: Lawton, Harry W., Correspondence, outgoing. 1985-1987. (3 items in chronological order)

Folder 3: Correspondence between various parties. 1984-1986. (58 items in chronological order) Includes many copies of letters sent to Governor George Deukmejian in support of Assembly Bill 3002, which would have authorized State appropriations for the purchase of the Riverside Chinatown site.

Folder 4: Lawton, Harry W., "Talk to the Riverside City Council." 24 July 1984. (1 item) Author's statement to the Riverside City Council asking for funds to finance an archaeological dig at the Riverside Chinatown site. Includes holographic corrections to the typewritten text.

Folder 5: Lawton, Harry W., "Chinese in the Citrus Belt: Riverside's Pioneer Chinatown (1885-1939)" [1985] (1 item) Author's holographic note: "This contains historical material given in several recent speeches and symposiums." Text includes holographic notes, corrections, and a numbering system to key it to a slide show.

Folder 6: Lawton, Harry W., "Orange Groves and Rice Bowls: A Narrative History of the Chinese Pioneers of Riverside, California (1969-1974)" 1986-1987. (1 item) Typed manuscript of "preface," chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, and appendices 1 and 2. This manuscript includes holographic notes by the author. It is a partial draft of volume one of Wong Ho Leun: the Chinese Urban Community of Riverside, California, 1885-1974, to be published by the Great Basin Foundation in 1987.

Folder 7: Lawton, Harry W., Manilla envelope labeled: "Early Account of Chinatown Drive, not to be opened before 2,000 [C. E.]. Nothing inflammatory here, but I'd prefer it be kept to a later period." Containing: "On How We Corrupted Hadleyburg and the Origin of the Chinese Pavilion." n.d. (1 manuscript and manilla envelope) Typed manuscript with author's holographic note: "Rough draft of an unfinished account by Harry W. Lawton."

Folder 8: Maps of Riverside's Chinatowns. 1887-1987? (5 items) Includes photocopies of Sanborn Fire Insurance maps and hand drawn maps by Harry Lawton based upon the Sanborns. Holographic notes on photocopies were also made by Lawton.

Folder 9: Chinatown Video Project, grant applications. 1983-1985. (6 items) Includes grant applications and detailed funding justifications presented to several public agencies.

Folder 10: Chinatown Video Project, film script by James T. Brown and Peter Lang entitled, :When They All Still Lived." 7 September 1985. (1 item) First draft of script for the Chinatown Video Project, produced by the Media Resources Department of the University of California, Riverside. Contains holographic notes by Lawton.

Folder 11: Chinatown site, Riverside, miscellaneous development documents. July 1984. (2 items)

Folder 12: Ad Hoc Citizens' Committee to Save Riverside's Chinatown, letter and petition. 14 July 1984. (2 items)

Folder 13: Great Basin Foundation prospectus. 24 July 1984. (2 items)

Folder 14: Great Basin Foundation, Proposal to Conduct an Historical and Archaeological Investigation of the Riverside Chinatown, by Clark W. Brott and Paul G. Chance. 5 September 1984. (1 item)

Folder 15: Great Basin Foundation, "The Chinatown Dig" (press kit)
1985. (22 items in folder) Includes press releases nrs. 1 - 7, and 10, photocopies of background newspaper articles and press photo of author Maxine Hong Kingston.

Folder 16: Great Basin Foundation, newsletters. 1985-1986. (7 items)

Folder 17: Riverside Chinatown Investigation, tentative schedule. 1984? (1 item)

Folder 18: "From China to California Symposium," Riverside, California, May 18, 1985, announcement and schedule. 1985. (2 items)

Folder 19: Chinatown Historical Park Advisory Group, minutes.
11 August 1985. (1 item with attachments) Includes photocopies of plans for the Riverside Chinese Pavilion.

Folder 20: Chinese Pavilion Committee. 1985-1987. (7 items) Includes manuscripts of remarks made by Dr. Lui Ta-Jen at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Riverside Chinese Memorial Pavilion and notes from City Councilmember Ronald O. Loveridge on Pavilion related matters undertaken by the City Council Recreation and Cultural Committee. A press release from the Chinese Pavilion Committee entitled "The Riverside Chinese Pavilion Story (August 1987) was added to this folder by RPL subsequent to the donation.

Folder 21: UCR Chinese Students Association, "A Brief Chronological History of Riverside's Chinatown." 16 November 1985. (1 item)

Folder 22: Chinatown Centennial Ball Committee. 1985. (4 items) Includes press photo of actor James Hong.

Folder 23: Raven, Shelly, "Red Paper and Varnished Ducks: Subjective Images of Riverside's Chinatown." [1985]. (1 item) Paper prepared for the Great Basin Foundation of San Diego on the history of Riverside's Chinatown. Basically, this is a narrative which brings together primary source texts on a variety of social topics. Major texts include: an 1886 sermon by Revd George H. Deere; an undated letter by George Wong; undated recollections and a 1985 letter of Stewart Malloch; a 1930 letter of Eva Malloch; and an undated article by Joan H. Hall entitled "George Wong: One Lucky China Boy."

Folder 24: Chinese Historical Society of Southern California, newsletter. 1985-1987. (7 items)

Folder 25: Chinese Historical Society of Southern California, Gum Saan Journal. 1985-1986. (2 items)

Folder 26: UC Riverside Magazine. December 1984. (2 items) Contains article entitled "Riverside's Chinatown," related articles, and obituary of Professor Robert T. Poe. One copy has holographic notes in margins made by Harry Lawton in March 1987.

Folder 27: Press and journal clippings. 1928-1986. (48 items in chronological order)

Folder 28: Miscellaneous items. 1984-1986 (12 items) Includes the text of Assembly Bill 3002 (1986) and list of Riverside residents who wrote Governor Deukmajian in support of this legislation.

Container 2

Envelope. (12 slides)

Envelope. Proof sheets of Lawton's articles for Wong Ho Leun with holographic corrections and notes by Harry Lawton.

Loose. Proof sheets of articles for Wong Ho Leun with holographic corrections and notes by Harry Lawton.

Local History