[image] National Asian-Pacific Heritage Month Banner[image] National Park Service Arrowhead and link to NPS.gov[image] National Park Service Arrowhead and link to NPS.gov
[graphic text] Hawaii Shingon Mission

[Photo] Current view of Stedman Street, Stedman Street Bridge over Ketchikan Creek, Deer Mountain in background
Photo courtesy of Hilary Koch, Millard + Peters Architects
The Stedman-Thomas Historic District, located in the City of Ketchikan, in southeast Alaska, was a cultural melting pot for Asian and Pacific Islanders involved in Alaska's fishing industry from the early 1900s to the 1940s. Situated on Revillagigedo Island, the town of Ketchikan originally developed along the shoreline. Beginning in the 1900s, social segregation compelled Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos, and a handful of other minority groups to reside in Indian Town, the name given to the part of Ketchikan south of Ketchikan Creek where the American Indians resided. Virtually all of Ketchikan's non-European American inhabitants lived in the Stedman-Thomas neighborhood of Indian Town. Ketchikan, which incorporated as a city in 1900, became the regional supply center for the fishing industry that was expanding rapidly in southeast Alaska. As settlers and entrepreneurs came to the city, the American Indian and European American populations became increasingly segregated; the American Indians settling south of Ketchikan Creek, forming Indian Town, which was eventually composed of Haida, Tsimshian, and Tlingit Indians. As early as 1908, a small community of Japanese, Chinese, and Filipinos, had moved to Ketchikan, looking for economic opportunities provided by the fishing industry, and settled in the Stedman-Thomas Historic District.

[Photo] Historic images of the Stedman--Thomas Historic District, c. 1920s
Photos from National Register collection, courtesy of Tongass Historical Society

The fishing industry grew, and through the 1920s and 1930s Ketchikan became the headquarters for the fishing industry in southern southeast Alaska. The growing Asian and Pacific Islander population contributed significantly to the character of the Stedman-Thomas Historic District. Most of the neighborhood's first businesses were owned and operated by Japanese, Chinese, and Korean families. George Ohashi operated a store at 223 Stedman as early as 1910, which advertised its fresh "Chop Suey" ingredients in the Ketchikan Daily News. Other Asian immigrants and businesses included George Shimizu and his family, who owned and operated the New York Hotel and Café at 207-211 Stedman Street; Harry Kimura, who owned Harry's Place at 325 Stedman; Jim Tanino, who operated Jimmy's Noodle Café at 227 Stedman; and James Tatsuda, who owned and operated Tatsuda's Grocery Store at 339 Stedman. The Japanese community had a small school and meeting house on the hill above Stedman Street, where adult volunteers taught the children of Japanese immigrants their native language.

Top: Thomas Street, Thomas Basin, Potlatch Bar
Stedman Street--renovation of June's Cafe on left, New York Hotel in center
Photos courtesy of Hilary Koch,
Millard + Peters Architects
As laws restricted Japanese and Chinese immigration to the United States in the 1920s, more Filipinos were enlisted to work in the Alaska canneries. Ketchikan had one of the earliest permanent Filipino communities in Alaska. Those Filipinos who did not live in bunkhouses at the canneries generally lived in the Stedman-Thomas Historic District. Many Filipinos resided in group homes, and individuals who had established themselves in Ketchikan often acted as sponsors for new arrivals until they had the means to find their own living quarters. The building at 337-339 Stedman housed a Filipino Social Club, which later became the Filipino Community Club in 1938. This organization, formed by district residents, is touted as the first Filipino community club in Alaska. In the early 1940s, the isolation of the Stedman-Thomas District eased, but the ethnic composition changed. During World War II, Ketchikan's Japanese residents were relocated to interment camps in the Pacific Northwest. Forty-two Japanese left at this time and did not return, which broke the backbone of the Stedman-Thomas business community. As this period also saw changes in the Alaska fishing industry, with the depletion of both manpower and the number of fish due to unregulated fishing, the canneries consolidated. The Alaska fishing industry never completely recovered, and as Alaska's economic growth turned to lumber the hustle of the Stedman-Thomas District gave way to a calmer neighborhood. Many businesses that had thrived with the patronage of fishermen ceased to operate or changed emphasis. The overall historical integrity of the district remains intact, and the residential buildings have been referred to as Pioneer Farmhouse to describe their appearance--generally two-story houses with a shed-roofed kitchen addition in the rear. Nearly all the commercial buildings in the district line Stedman Street, and are simple wood frame structures with false fronts, which were added to existing buildings in the 1920s to modernize them. The Ohashi Store at 223 Stedman, built around 1908, is an example of a two-story false front building which retains its historical character and integrity. Aside from American Indians, and Asian and Pacific Americans, Mexicans, some Europeans and Latin Americans, African Americans, and mixed heritage families also lived in the Stedman-Thomas Historic District. Today, the Stedman-Thomas Historic District is a heavily visited tourist site.

For further information, see also A Multicultural Melting Pot in Ketchikan, Alaska, an article in Cultural Resources Management.
Search the Issue Archives then, search Issue Title for "Diversity and Cultural Resources". And the article "A Multicultural Melting Pot in Ketchikan, Alaska.


Hawaii Shingon Mission | Stedman--Thomas Historic District | Kaloko-Honokohau NHP
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Images for top banner from NPS Historic Photograph Collection (Rainbow over Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, by Thomas C. Gray, [HPC-001345]) and the Palau Historic Preservation Office.

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