Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, 1956-58

While the Chicago branch of the CCBA was founded in 1906, its current building at 250 West 22nd Place was not begun until 1956. The date is interesting, as this was a time when the population of Chinatown was static and new construction activity was minimal.  The design of the central portion of the building not only emphasizes the owners’ ethnicity but shows that the architect was familiar with traditional Chinese architectural concepts.  The roof tiles must have been imported from East Asia, perhaps Taiwan or Hong Kong.  There is a 400-seat auditorium behind the balcony that was formerly used for performances of Cantonese opera.



Most American Chinatowns have a branch of the CCBA, called Zhong Hua by local Chinese-Americans and in San Francisco once known to the English-language media as “the Six Companies.”  The CCBA’s members are not individuals but organizations, including all of the family surname (“clanship”) associations.  Although the Zhong Hua of Chicago seems often to have been overshadowed by the local On Leong and Hip Sing Associations, it has filled several essential functions since its founding.  In earlier days, it oversaw the locating of new Chinese laundries (and restaurants as well?) to ensure that they would be far enough apart to minimize competition.  It is supposed to have been assigned this task by the famed Chinese ambassador Wu Tingfang.  The modern Chicago Zhong Hua still retains another of its traditional functions: it leases a portion of the Mt. Auburn Cemetery in suburban Stickney and re-leases burial plots to Chinese families.

The Confucius statue just east of the front door was dedicated in 1998.  The government of Taiwan and the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party) paid part of the cost.