Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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History Lesson Photographs

A few days ago, I wandered into a website that listed tourist attractions near Sacramento, and noticed that there was only one of them I couldn't remember ever having been to that looked like it would interest me. I decided to go to it. It was the town of Locke: a three-square-block town with a population of about 80, built on the Sacramento River about half an hour's drive southwest of Sacramento. It's the only surviving town in the U.S. that was built exclusively by and for Chinese immigrants.

The entire town of Locke has been owned by Hong Kong developer Ng Tor Tai since 1977, but his plans to turn it from a near-ghost-town into a living town have been blocked by, interestingly, predominantly Caucasian people who wish to preserve the old, run-down buildings as historical landmarks. The current population of Locke apparently also now consists of more Caucasians than Chinese people. Although the Caucasian historians have successfully blocked the developer's plans, they have left the buildings very vulnerable to fire and the general consensus seems to be that Locke is in imminent danger of disappearing entirely.

So anyway, I went to Locke yesterday. And like any good little annoying tourist, I took pictures. Now you get to see them.

The land between here and Locke (I live southeast of Sacramento, and Locke is southwest of Sacramento) is mostly farmland, bordered with flowers and fennel along the roadside. If you look closely at the horizon, you can see the faint outlines of the coastal mountain range in the distance.

Shortly before arriving in Locke, I crossed this bridge over the South Mokelumne River, and stopped to take pictures underneath it.

There was a rowboat chained underneath it.

And there were pretty river scenes . . .

And pretty riverbank scenes . . .

And truly disgusting amounts of litter. Why on earth do people drive miles away from their cities to come look at beautiful nature scenes and then destroy them by coating them with six-inch-thick layers of litter everywhere???

So, I got back in my smog-producing, fossil-fuel-consuming car and continued on toward Locke. Not much further down the road from the South Mokelumne River, I arrived at the Sacramento River, the river whose banks Locke was built upon. Incidentally, this picture is an absolutely perfect example of how roadsigns are to nature photographers as light pollution is to astronomers. The sign says "Secured by ADT," but really it should say "Photographs Ruined by ADT."

The picture below shows what the opposite side of the road looked like, about 30 feet before I arrived in Locke.

Welcome to Locke! You can't really see it with the picture shrunk to this size, but, well, the red splotches on the lower right side of the sign are Chinese writing, and there's some smaller Chinese writing in yellow, to the right of the red. And there are actually two identical signs like this, one on each side of the entrance to the main parking lot of Locke. But this one made a nicer photograph, so I just photographed this one.

This is the house directly behind the "Welcome to Locke" sign.

Below is the rear view of the same house, after I had entered the main parking lot of Locke. Unlike many of the other houses in Locke, this one had signs it's still being lived in, despite its obvious lack of any new paint jobs in the past 50 years.

There are things piled in the back of the parking lot, with signs labeling which items belong in which piles. Three signs in front of the fence say "Wood," "Furniture," and "Appliances." An additional sign hung directly on the fence (the second sign from the left) says: "No Tires, No TVs, Monitors, No Paint, Chemicals."

I found this peace sign graffiti in the parking lot, too. I can't read the writing under the peace sign.

Below is the Joe Shoong Chinese School, the first obviously Chinese thing you come to after parking in the parking lot. Joe Shoong was a millionaire owner of a dry-goods chain who donated the money to build this school back around 1920.

The main street that passes through Locke is Levee Road. On one side of Levee Road is the Sacramento River; on the other side is Locke. The Yuen Chong & Co. Meat Market is on Levee Road, just past the other "Welcome to Locke" sign (the one I didn't photograph, on the other side of the parking lot entrance from the one I did photograph). The sign saying "Yuen Chong General Store" is mostly overgrown with ivy, so it's a good thing the name is also printed on the building itself.

The house to the left of this one has been condemned; it was covered with signs saying to keep out because the building was unstable. This one looks nearly as bad but shows some signs that people are still actually using it. Certainly the dog standing in the doorway looking at me seemed to think it lived there.

The dog was cute, so I had to take a closer picture of it. I <3 my zoom lens. Actually I should probably have zoomed in further.

Continuing down Levee Road, I arrived at Locke China Imports, which is still open for business . . .

And River Road Art Gallery, which was also open . . .

And at the end of the block, the Locke Garden Chinese Restaurant, which appeared to be the most financially successful business in all of Locke. And which hasn't taken down its Christmas lights for the summer.

I had, at this point, walked the entire width of the town down Levee Street, and photographed nearly every building I passed. Rounding the corner, I found that the Locke Garden Chinese Restaurant does indeed have a garden in back. This is the garden.

Locke has signs posted asking tourists to stay in the tourist area and not wander around the residential section. Because of this, the street I now arrived at was the only other block of the tiny town that I walked down.

But some people seem to live above the shops in the tourist area, too.

I was actually trying to photograph the painting in the window of the Ning Hou Fine Art Museum - it was a painting of the original Chinese residents of Locke working on a construction project together. What I ended up photographing was more a reflection of the car parked outside, but you can also see a reflection of me taking the photograph, on the left edge of the window.

Further down the street is the Locke Art Center . . .

And then the other side of the River Road Art Gallery. (Remember my photograph of the front of it earlier in this post?)

Across the street is the Chinese Cultural Shop . . .

And I'd love to be able to tell you what this building is, but unfortunately I can't read Chinese.

Here's a random shot of some more run-down buildings in Locke.

And last, I leave you with one of the prettier, less-run-down-looking houses in Locke. Its garden was too magnificent to not photograph.

Tags: photographs
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