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  • Beth Mathews

"A Persistent Menace" Washington Standard, 1 March 1912

Over 100 years later, the gentrification of Olympia has some things in common with the racist tirades issued by John Miller Murphy, editor of the Washington Standard from 1860 to 1912. I came across this article while researching the Star Lodging House, which was occupied by Black sex workers prior to 1910. This article, while tough to read, paints a picture of a multi-cultural downtown Olympia. The red-light district had been cleared out in December 1910, apparently leaving Murphy and others scrambling to find a focus for his self-righteous hate. Murphy published many bigoted editorials during his tenure as owner of the Washington Standard.


What will Olympia lose as gentrification finally takes hold? A 175 year history of forcibly removing people from this landscape lies buried under the dredge fill Murphy mentions. We have neglected so many stories for too long. Archaeology can help us tell their stories.



1903 Photograph of Kwong Hong Yick Laundry, 5th and Columbia Streets

A Persistent Menace

[The article opens with an introduction of a missionary who spoke at the first Presbyterian church, which is omitted here.]


One has to but glance over the most desirable locations on our principal street -- Main [now Capitol] -- to see that this warning is not premature, when he counts the long rows of Chinese habitations that soon become mere shacks with the accompaniment of hidious noises and noisome smells, that occupy these choicest locations in town and many of them doubtless secured by long leases. Have you ever heard of Chinaman refusing big pay for a long term or voluntarily relinquishing it when it has ended? Never. That is one object that has been so deeply engrained into mongolian nature as never to be forgotten.


Main Street was designed for the principal thoroughfare, nearest the wharves and in direct line with the principal roads leading to town from other points of the compass. And these natural advantages have been largely augmented by the city constructing a costly permanent home for its city government, centrally located on Third and Main streets.


But what do we find? A string of Chinese joints clustered about the city hall like fleas on a dog's hide. One or two of these excresences are in close juxtaposition to the public building, with an immense wooden framework over the whole roof of one of the buildings, on which clothes are strung to dry, in plain violation of a law supposed to apply to all white people regarding fire limits, and it was presumably erected with the full knowledge of Mayor and Council within a few feet of the selected site of the new city hall. There are, on the same block a Chinese laundry, a Chinese restaurant and a Chinese store, and on the opposite block southeast, another large Chinese restaurant, and on Third Street, just around the corner, two more laundries, on either side the street, and it is an open secret that the Capital City Creamery moved from that street nearby to escape contamination of its products by objectionable odors. Thus it may be shown that nearly half a dozen choice locations are "held down" by these objectionable tenants.


Then below Second street several more of the mixed nationalities with objectionable habits are said to be firmly aligned, and this week a huge, unsightly bill-board came to take up its obstrusive position on Second and Main streets. White it only replaces as great a nuisance, the charred Star Lodging House, which was allowed for many months to stand as a monument to the inefficiency of our municipal government, it cannot be regarded in any degree a betterment. No first class city now allows a bill board to be erected in the residence districts nor on the principal business streets.


Then it will be remembered that the Westside Fill was scarcely completed before a row of shacks from the then Chinatown was switched upon the newly completed and costly water-front and placed near as possible to its juncture with Fourth street the second in business importance.


Now this situation, taken as a whole, is almost unbearable, but it will, with the augmentation predicted by Prof. Holt, from alien population, become continually worse, and demand, in the course of time, far more strenuous an effort for satisfactory adjustment. Now is the accepted time to determine whether our land shall remain a white man's country or become the object of contention with races inured to habits, labor and modes of life that might mean to us utter extermination.


References

National Archives

https://catalog.archives.gov/id/298993


Washington Standard

https://washingtondigitalnewspapers.org/?a=d&d=WASHSTD19120301.1.2&srpos=9&e


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