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Historic Locke, California

Historic Locke, California

A photo tour of the city Locke California, located on the delta. 

250px-Locke_p1080790The main street of Locke, in 2006, has some Chinese shops among habitations.

Locke (Chinese: 樂居), also known as Locke Historic District, is an unincorporated community in California‘s Sacramento – San Joaquin River Delta built by Chinese immigrants during the early 20th century. It was originally named Lockeport after George Locke, who owned the land that the town was built upon at a time when Chinese people were not allowed to own land. Locke is located in the primarily agricultural region south of Sacramento, California, near State Route 160. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and further was designated a National Historic Landmark Districtin 1990 due to its unique example of a historic Chinese American rural community.

240px-USA_California_location_map.svgDescription: The ZIP Code is 95690, and the community is inside area code 916.

The official US Geological Survey, National Geographic Names Database (NGND) ID 1656136. The NAD83 latitude and longitude listed in NGND is 38°15′02″N 121°30′34″W.


The original beginning of Locke, then called Lockeport, was in 1912, when three Chinese merchants, two from nearby town of Vorden and one from Walnut Grove, contracted tradesmen to construct three buildings. Chan Tin Sin built the first building. It was a combination dry goods store and beer saloon. Yuen Lai Sing built a gambling hall. Owyang Wing Cheong built the Lockeport Hotel & Restaurant. Dedicatory plaque on the first building, Locke, California: placed by the Sacramento County Historical Society on August 2nd, 1970 Locke by Nancy Wey in the book. “Five Views: An Ethnic Historic Site Survey for California”, California Office of Historical Preservation, December 1988.

UnknownFollowing that early construction the Canton Hotel was built, along with several other buildings, one of which later became a bordello. A total of seven structures eventually formed the hamlet of Lockeport. Though some merchants hoped to provide a destination for riverboat and train passengers, the idea never worked due to the discrimination against Chinese during those times. From oral interview by Roberta (Bobbie) Owyang-Lee, daughter of Owyang Wing Cheong, 1912 founder of Lockeport. One of the homes built in the first phase of construction provided shelter for Chan Tin Sin’s cousin Chan Chor Get and his family from the discriminatory acts and violence in San Francisco Chinatown.<oral interview by Jane Chan-Chung, daughter of Chan Chor Get.

images-4On October 7th, 1915 from the testimony of National Archives & Records Administration Chinese Exclusion records of Walnut Grove and Locke merchant Owyang Tin Git, the Chinatown of nearby Walnut Grove was destroyed and burned after an accidental fire thus causing a migration of Zhongshan district Chinese into neighboring areas. Afterwards, the Main Street section of the town of Locke was settled and established by a group, headed by Lee Bing., of Chinese/American Businessmen Yuehai-speaking Chinese (a dialect of Yue Chinese) from the Zhongshan region of Guangdong province in China.  Differing in some respects from the predominant Toisanese Chinese-speakers in practice, they created a town of their own. The land was leased from George Locke as California law at the time forbade the selling of farmland to Asian immigrants by the Alien Land Law created in the California State Legislature in 1913. Many Chinese immigrants were facing serious discrimination in the major cities. It is a town built completely “by the Chinese for the Chinese” and can be considered a distinct rural Chinatown enclave. Like many other Chinatowns, it had a Chinese-language school, general stores, and restaurants. Because of its relatively large population of Chinese people at the time, the Chinese Kuomintang political party once had a local chapter in Locke.

The population of Locke swelled with the growing season and harvest. There would be as many as 1000 to 1500 Chinese people living in Locke. Farmhand shared rooms in the boarding houses. Chinese residents living in the homes behind Main Street also took in Chinese farm laborers. A community garden existed in the back and there was a special oven to make roast pigs on Sundays. Baptist missionary, Dr. Charles Shepherd would bring in his Chungmei home boys for the pear harvest at the end of July. Life in Locke had a great deal of accord. The Chinese mothers took care of each other’s children when another mother had to go to work at the cannery across the River Road next to the riverboat docks of the Sacramento River . From oral interviews by Roberta (Bobbie) Owyang-Lee, daughter of Owyang Wing Cheong, 1912 founder of Lockeport.

images-2Ironically, however, the current population of Locke is predominantly white and the population of Chinese Americans (i.e., descendants of the town’s original settlers) is 10. During the 1940’s and 1950’s, many of Locke’s Chinese Americans, many of whom received better education, began joining the American mainstream by moving out of rural Locke and into the burgeoning suburbs of the major cities.

The Locke Historic District bounded on the west by the Sacramento River, on the north by Locke Rd., on the east by Alley St., and on the south by Levee St. The district was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 6, 1971.

Hong Kong-based developer purchased the town in 1977 from the Locke Heirs and sold it in 2002 to the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency. In 2004, the agency finally allowed the sale of land to those who had been living on it for many years. There were plans to convert Locke into a housing development and tourist attraction. Plans are under way to use state and federal grant money to convert the boarding house (now owned by the California Department of State Parks) into a museum.

images-3The Locke Historic District was designated a National Historic Landmark on December 14, 1990.


In the state legislature, Locke is in the 5th State Senate district, represented by Democrat Lois Wolk, and in the 15th State Assembly district, represented by Democrat Joan Buchanan.

Federally, Locke is in California’s 3rd congressional district, represented by Democrat John Garamendi.,_California ℗ is your source to learn about the broad and beautiful spectrum of our shared History.