Modern day streets in our urban settings are named after historical figures, and they bear immense significance. One of such streets is Clement Street in the Richmond District of San Francisco, California. San Francisco is the smallest county in the state of California. It covers an area of under 50 square miles, with a population of more than 200, 000 people. Part of California City is the Richmond District. The focus of this paper, Clement Street is at the heart of Richmond District. In the 1800s, Adolph Sutro moved into an arid area filled with shrubs and sand dunes. In this region, he built a house and named it Cliff House. He also built the Sutra Baths in the same area. The area was outcast in the formation of the state of California in1850 since no one wanted to settle there. So it was left to be a part of Mexico. Later in the review of the boundaries of the region, it was annexed to the U. S. In 1866, it Richmond district was officially made part of San Francisco. Initially left as a graveyard, it was now part of the San Francisco city. One of the most famous and prominent residents of the old Richmond District and its neighborhood was George Turner Marsh. He settled here before the area had been named Richmond, in fact, he is the reason why it was so named. Marsh was an immigrant from Australia. He built his residence in 1876 and named it after one of the suburbs of Melbourne City, in his native country. He called it Richmond House. Richmond was the suburb in which Marsh was born, back in the Australian city of Melbourne. 1
It is ironic, though, that Sutro came to the region earlier, and had made a bigger impact and greater developments than Marsh, yet the area came to be known and later named after the residence of Marsh; Richmond. The name was adopted and recognized by the board of supervisors in 1890. This gave birth to the Richmond district that is now a part of San Francisco.
1 Stryker, Susan, and Jim Van Buskirk. Gay by the Bay: A history of queer culture in the San Francisco Bay Area. Chronicle Books, 1996.
Initially, a dune-filled area, which was not popular to construction and settlement; it grew into a hub of cultural diversity and high-density population over a few decades. In 1906, an earthquake hit the area, and this saw the developers rise with renewed focus and ambition to rebuild and replace the houses that had been cast down. After the earthquake, many buildings came up, and many natives and few immigrants settled around Richmond. It was during the immigration after the Second World War that the modern day Richmond started taking shape. Many cultures began streaming into the area. 1
Chinatown is a part of a cosmopolitan city which has a dense population or settlement of the Han people or the Chinese. These settlements are mostly run by Chinese people and all the foods; the culture, language, are all in Chinese. San Francisco has seen a substantial presence of the Chinese over the past century. Many immigrants have found it conducive for business and settlement. After World War II, the city has grown in cultural diversity.
2 Shuck, Oscar Tully, ed. History of the Bench and Bar of California. Commercial printing house, 1901.
The Chinese found a hub on Clement Street. And in it, they formed business alliances that have since transformed the street to be the new Chinatown. Many people refer to Clement Street as the new China town. About three decades ago, Chinese were concentrated and more or less fixed to the Clement Street. They developed businesses and grew the Chinese culture all along the street. They were at war many times with other immigrants from neighboring streets. San Francisco had been generous to open its doors to foreign immigrants. People streamed in from Italy, France, Vietnam and China in what was then called a gold rush. After the gold rush came the reality of living together and growing together in a community, and for the Chinese, protecting and securing a future of their own was a priority. Over time, this has not gone so well for them. Modern day Clement Street is not the ideal China town that one would anticipate or even recall from times past.3
Though there still is the presence of Chinese shops and markets, the ethnic composition of the population on the street has grown to include Korean, Thai and Vietnamese nationals. They have taken over most of the restaurants in Chinatown. And they are gaining popularity among the residents and the neighborhood. Most Chinese business people are pulling out to look for better opportunities in other places. A restaurant such as the Burma Superstar has become a darling of many, serving culturally diverse cuisines, mostly Chinese and Burmese. On the other side of the street, there are other restaurants such as the Japanese restaurant Wako. Wako serves Japanese delicacies. The street is also filled with coffee shops that offer all ranges of beverages from all parts of the world. French meals are also available as well as Native American foods.4
3 Hartman, Chester. City for sale: The transformation of San Francisco. Univ of California Press, 2002.
4 Huhtala, Kari. "Richmond–A City of Cultural Fusion and Change." a city information leaflet, February 17 (2004).
Apart from the food outlets, the cultural mix is also revealed in the pubs on the street, ranging from Irish to American. The bookstores stock all varieties of books from authors across the world. Asians have also been growing in presence around these regions over the past decade. They bring with them a new taste and flavor to the one existing in the Clement Street. It is an international mix up of cultures packed up into one center. This explains why the street is referred to as the new China Town. Traditionally, China towns were, and still are in many parts of the world, an ethnic lockout with predominantly Chinese residents and Chinese-run businesses. But on Clement Street, though the Chinese presence can still be felt, there is an international mix to it that makes it different from other China Towns. The Chinese though are reducing in numbers at Clement Street. 4
Clement Street has a rich history, going back into the 1800s, and also culturally, fed from all parts of the world. The many cultures mean that almost everything goes into the new Chinese city. The district started off as a middle-class community, but now it is a city where the gap between the poor and the rich is widening. The illegal trade fuels the tycoons of Clement Street to more and more wealth as it drains the poor of their meager wealth. The increase in taxes and inflation over the years has affected the legal businesses and hence most people are pulling out to find better trading grounds or to seek jobs that promise better returns than their businesses. The cultural diversity in Clement Street keeps on evolving.3 It is not threatened to go extinct, but its composition will keep shifting. It had started out as a small settlement for both natives and immigrants in the early 1900s, but now it has grown to be one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse community in the 21st century. The street also houses a very wide range of businesses.
Hartman, Chester. City for sale: The transformation of San Francisco. Univ of California Press, 2002.
Huhtala, Kari. "Richmond–A City of Cultural Fusion and Change." a city information leaflet, February 17 (2004).
Shuck, Oscar Tully, ed. History of the Bench and Bar of California. Commercial printing house, 1901.
Stryker, Susan, and Jim Van Buskirk. Gay by the Bay: A history of queer culture in the San Francisco Bay Area. Chronicle Books, 1996.