Vanished Chinatown Landmarks, 1910s-1930s

Emporium Interior
The Emporium Interior

Several parts of the old South Side Chinatown have been lost.  One is the group of buildings in the 150 block of West 22nd Street [Cermak Ave.], between LaSalle Street (itself now replaced by a freeway ramp) and Wentworth Avenue.  That block was completely demolished by two events: by the widening of 22nd Street for the 1933 World Fair and then by the construction of the Cermak feeder ramps to the I-55/I-90/I-94 freeway system in the 1960s.  During the 1920s, however, the blocks east of Wentworth were integral parts of Chinatown.

Parisian postcard

Among the most important buildings in that area were that of the Parisian Novelty Co., which sold its building for demolition in 1927 when 22nd Street was widened, and the Chinese Merchandise Mart or Emporium, a large Art Deco structure that was built near or on the site of the former Parisian Novelty building.  The Parisian Novelty Co. is interesting not only because the company still exists (it is a leading manufacturer of corporate promotional items) but because it employed a number of Chinese-American workers in the 1920s, a period when most historians say that Chinese-Americans never worked in factories.  The Chinese Emporium  may have been the largest souvenir/curio shop in the history of Chicago’s Chinatown.

Emporium postcard