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Lanterns Brighten AsiaTown History


By AsiaTown Cleveland

Just in time for Lunar New Year, Payne Avenue welcomed new pole lanterns to light up the streets and welcome in the new year.

These bright fixtures add colorful red and yellow light to the neighborhood while using energy efficient LED technology. Twenty light fixtures adorn electric poles from E. 27th Street to E. 40th Street. Community members selected the lantern design over other shape options.

Thank you to the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Foundation for providing generous support to this project. MidTown Cleveland Inc’s AsiaTown team worked with Halper Lighting Solutions, Clock Electric, and Cleveland Public Power to make this project possible.


Cleveland Asiatown History 


Karis Tzeng, the director of Asiatown Initiatives at Midtown Cleveland said “I don’t think a lot of people think about Cleveland [when they think about Asian American immigration], but there is a really long history of Chinese folks here — and, actually, the development of Asiatown was really critical.”

Asiatown has provided a community for generations of Asian Americans dating all the way back to the 1800s. The majority of the residents are of CHINESE, KOREAN, and VIETNAMESE origin. With a rough geographic range from East 18th to East 40th and from St. Clair to Perkins Avenues, Asiatown has the highest percentage of Asian-Americans in Ohio.

Photo courtesy of AsiaTown Cleveland

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the midtown region (of which Asiatown is a large portion) has a self-identified Asian population of 39 percent, well above the national and state average.

The Chinese are the oldest Asian immigrant group in Asiatown. Chinese-Americans settled in Cleveland as early as 1860, but not until after the Civil War did the Chinese population in Cleveland exceed 100.

The Chinese who settled in Cleveland came from other urban areas, many from the West Coast, looking to escape intense anti-Chinese hostility while also seeking new economic opportunities.

According to a Cleveland State Heritage Study conducted in 1977, “The early Chinese settled in an area along Lakeside and St. Clair Avenues on Ontario Street… [and] they typically opened small service businesses when they arrived, such as laundries, restaurants, groceries and clothing stores.”

By the 1920s, many Chinese eventually made their way to Rockwell Ave. and East 22th, located near the outer western edge of what is now considered Asiatown.

As the Chinese-American population swelled during the twentieth century (especially after the communist takeover in 1949), the area became known as Chinatown. By the early 1990s the population east of Chinatown had become significantly diverse and included strong concentrations of people from Vietnam, Korea, and Thailand. Eventually, Asian-American businesses on the east side of Cleveland decided to rename the area Asiatown.