Whenever someone visits me, one of my absolute favourite things to do is take them to the north end of downtown and explore three very distinct neighborhoods; Chinatown, Olvera Street and Little Tokyo. I call it my three countries in one day tour. So, naturally, when my sister Josie came to visit with her friend Fran back in April, to downtown we headed.
The first stop is always the Chinatown Plaza. Chinatown was originally (pre-20th century) located somewhere between what is now Little Tokyo and Olvera Street. A few of the buildings between Main and Spring, Olvera Street adjacent, still stand, but most were razed to build Union Station.
The New Chinatown, is interestingly enough, located where Little Italy used to be (yes we used to have a Little Italy!) and there are still remnants of its Italian past, including the shell of Little Joes and the Casa Italia – this KCET article outlines what’s left of Chinatown’s Italian past.
New Chinatown was established in the 1930’s and Chinatown Plaza was built as both a tourist attraction and Hollywood set and opened in 1938. Now it’s still a tourist haunt – its brightly coloured buildings are enough to make anyone snap happy and its trove of trinket stores, filled with Made in China goodies you want to buy, thrill kitsch seekers like myself.