Nanaimo’s mining boom ushered in a new era of opportunity and prosperity – for all. Workers from all over the world, including some from Japan, Norway, Finland, Italy, and other parts of Europe arrived to take part. While decidedly multi-cultural, many of these newcomers were Chinese.
In the late 1860s, coal mining companies built housing for their Chinese workers downtown near the railway terminal, and Nanaimo’s first Chinatown was born. Stores offering imported Chinese goods, plus other shops and services for residents began to open up, creating a growing community. In 1867, Nanaimo had only 13 Chinese residents, but by 1874 that number had skyrocketed to over 200, reaching nearly 1,500 at the turn of the century.
After two relocations, a third Chinatown opened along Pine Street in 1908. This period was a thriving time for the community. Both Chinese workers and other residents of Nanaimo came to socialize, purchase supplies and enjoy local entertainment within its borders.
Eventually with the decline of the coal industry, Chinatown’s prosperity came to an end. Many relocated and the area began to deteriorate until it was destroyed by fire on September 30, 1960.