1044 Stockton St. Photo by Gary Stevens.
The Chinese American Citizen’s Alliance (CACA) is applying for National Register and National Historic Landmark (HNL) status for its headquarters at 1044 Stockton Street in San Francisco, a preservation effort intended to make its important history part of the national narrative. Founded in 1895 as a social and self-improvement group for American citizens of Chinese descent, today it is the longest continuous Chinese American or Asian American organization defending civil rights. Under the stifling stresses of society enforced by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the organization’s first public mission was realizing the right to vote in local, state, and national elections (today the org still pushes the vote for citizens).
Built in 1921 as CACA gained national status, 1044 Stockton is architecturally interesting as it was built in an Americanized style (Classical Revival). This set it apart from other Chinatown buildings rebuilt in an “oriental style” after the 1906 earthquake, and it now stands as a subtlety clever statement of quests for social parity during a time of discrimination. Increasing emphasis on a building’s historic context in landmark nominations makes 1055 Stockton Street especially significant for hosting over 126 years of important social history.
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However, in a session for The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2021 PastForward conference, CACA’s former president Munson Kwok talked about the challenges of landmarking this site, this year celebrating its centennial. In preparing the landmark documentation, CACA encountered many challenges, including: reconstructing a coherent historical narrative from its founding-present; the loss of many records created before SF’s 1906 earthquake; and the fact that many of CACA’s early records are 80% in Cantonese. Despite these puzzle pieces, CACA will soon move to submit their application to the CA’s State Historic Preservation Office.
The Stanford Libraries now hold the records for CACA, which are now open for research.
The story of 1044 Stockton is one example of the difficulty many underrepresented groups face in achieving historic recognition for places significant to their histories. Watch CACA’s full #PastForward session below: